Synopses & Reviews
Shane Crotty's biography of David Baltimore details the life and work of one of the most brilliant, powerful, and controversial scientists of our time. Although only in his early sixties, Baltimore has made major discoveries in molecular biology, established the prestigious Whitehead Institute at MIT, been president of Rockefeller University, won the Nobel Prize, and been vilified by detractors in one of the most scandalous and protracted investigations of scientific fraud ever. He is now president of Caltech and a leader in the search for an AIDS vaccine. Crotty not only tells the compelling story of this larger-than-life figure, he also treats the reader to a lucid account of the amazing revolution that has occurred in biology during the past forty years.
Basing his narrative on many personal interviews, Crotty recounts the milestones of Baltimore's career: completing his Ph.D. at Rockefeller University in eighteen months, participating in the antiand#151;Vietnam War movement, winning a Nobel Prize at age thirty-seven for the codiscovery of reverse transcriptase, and co-organizing the recombinant DNA/genetic engineering moratorium. Along the way, readers learn what viruses are and what they do, what cancer is and how it happens, the complexities of the AIDS problem, how genetic engineering works, and why making a vaccine is a complicated process. And, as Crotty considers Baltimore's public life, he retells the famous scientific fraud saga and Baltimore's vindication after a decade of character assassination.
Crotty possesses the alchemical skill of converting technical scientific history into entertaining prose as he conveys Baltimore's huge ambitions, intensity, scientific genius, attitude toward science and politics, and Baltimore's own view about what happened in the "Baltimore Affair." Ahead of the Curve shows why with his complex personality, keen involvement in public issues, and wide-ranging interests David Baltimore has not only shaped the face of American science as we know it today, but has also become a presence in our culture.
"A thoroughly researched, vivid, and accessible portrait of one of the towering intellectual figures of our time, David Baltimore: his life, his politics, his driving ambition, his stunning self-confidence."and#151;Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams
and The Diagnosis,
National Book Award Nominee
"A fascinating history of the life and science of one of the twentieth century's most important scientists. What drove Baltimore to a Nobel Prize, the establishment of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and the presidency of both Rockefeller and Caltech? This first book by a promising young writer provides a large part of the story."and#151;Phillip A. Sharp, 1993 Nobel Prize winner and Cancer Institute Professor, MIT
"This is the story of one of the most extraordinary lives in science today. David Baltimore has done Nobel-prize-winning work on viruses and cancer, he has led three of the worldand#8217;s great centers of biological research, and he has endured a tragicomic Star Chamber trial in Washington, a trial in which the nature of science and politics were illuminated in harsh and sometimes glary lights. I hope an Arthur Miller or a Jonathan Miller reads this book, registers the drama of this story, and puts it on the stage."and#151;Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Beak of the Finch
"I enjoyed the book immensely. Shane Crotty writes with the drive and energy characteristic of his subject, David Baltimore, capturing the pulse of the life and times of a great scientist whose life has not only been spiked with the exhilaration of scientific discovery, but enmeshed in public science policy and politics and concerned with the building of great institutions."and#151;Thomas Cech, Nobel laureate and President, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
About the Author
Shane Crotty is a molecular biologist in the Emory University School of Medicine, where he studies viruses and works to develop new vaccines.
Table of Contents
1. Great Neck, Long Island
4. Salk Institute
6. Recombinant DNA
7. Nobel Gold Poliovirus: An Interlude
8. Whitehead Institute