9780395453704 / 0395453704

Natural Obsessions: The Search for the Oncogene


Publisher:Houghton Mifflin



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About the book:

"Surprise is what scientists live for," writes Lewis Thomas in the Forward to this thrilling narrative of scientific discovery. "The very best ones revel in surprise, dance in the presence of astonishment." NATURAL OBSESSIONS describes in fascinating detail how some of the best young scientists in the world today explore the advanced reaches of molecular biology, probing for the nature of the human cell and for the oncogenes that control cancer. NATURAL OBSESSIONS is as dramatic in its events as those narrated in THE DOUBLE HELIX, as absorbing in its mental explorations as THE SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE. It is also as up to date as a book about a rapidly exfoliating field can be. The actors are brilliant scientists from a dozen nations. The principal scene is Robert Weinberg's laboratory at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA. The stakes are a cure for cancer--or for some cancers. During the many months that Natalie Angier was given the freedom of the corridors at Michael Wigler's Cold Spring Harbor laboratory and at Weinberg's lab, half a dozen major accomplishments emerged from their work--the most recent of which was to clone the oncogene for retinoblastoma, a dreadful disease of the eye in children. Both labs broke through into new regions of surprise, moving ever closer to the roots of cancer and the dark heart of the human cell. NATURAL OBSESSIONS is like few other books in that it deals not merely with the end product of investigative science--results--but with the process of scientific inquiry, how science gets done. To attain that end, failure helps as much as success; a scrupulously documented failure advances scientific knowledge immensely, though not necessarily the morale or the fortunes of the scientists whose failure advances knowledge. This book is full of the intoxication of success, the ruefulness of failure, but, above all, what Wordsworth called, "the impassioned look upon the face of science."

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