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Love and Science: A Memoir Hardcover – February 9, 2016

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Editorial Reviews


"Jan Vilcek’s book tells an astonishing story of two intertwined journeys—one scientific, the other personal.  The arc of the personal journey is remarkable: a childhood in Bratislava torn apart by Nazism and then overshadowed by Communism and an escape to a new continent.  The scientific journey is just as vast—from explorations in immunology and microbiology to the discovery of some of the most remarkable medicines of our times.  In both journeys, we encounter the essential ingredients of adventure: the urgency of exploration, flashes of inspiration, false leads, sudden successes, the importance of serendipity, the tortuous ups-and-downs of failures and struggles—but above all, that powerful animus to explore and discover new worlds. I could not put it down." —Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, author of The Emperor of All Maladies

"Jan Vilcek does not make himself the center of a heroic narrative but gives space to colleagues, friends, and family, yet emerging from this narrative is the unmistakably wise, warm, optimistic, and modest soul of a great man." —Yiyun Li, author of Kinder than Solitude and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

"This is a memoir to be cherished.  Dr. Jan Vilcek’s remarkable life bears witness to the totalitarian evils of Nazism and Communism that shaped his native Czechoslovakia, and to the life-saving miracles he produced in the laboratories of his adopted homeland, the United States.   It’s a story of courage and freedom, of discovery and philanthropy—told with the elegant modesty of a man who devoted his life to easing the world’s pain.   Put simply, it demands to be read." —David Oshinsky, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story   

"Jan Vilcek tells a gripping story of a childhood on the run, escape from tyranny, and the building of a career and a discovery that benefits millions. A tale of both remarkable humanity and science, and hard to put down..." —Martin Blaser, MD, author of Missing Microbes

"It’s a marvelous book, as interesting about science as it is about the adventures of this extraordinary man. I couldn’t put it down." —Charles Simic, poet, essayist, and translator, past Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate of the United States

“Jan Vilcek’s extraordinary book sets a new standard in science writing and will inspire generations to come.  It tells us what America is all about and shows that success can lead to generosity and visionary philanthropy.” —Eric R. Kandel, MD, Nobel Laureate, author of In Search of Memory and The Age of Insight 

"In this compelling memoir, a modest giant in medical research survives the Nazis, escapes the Communists, thrives as an immigrant scientist, and turns unexpected wealth into prizes that remind us of the value of immigration.   A great story appearing at a hazardous time in our nation's history!” —Harold Varmus, MD, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine  

About the Author

JAN T. VILCEK is professor of Microbiology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Born in Bratislava, Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia), where he also earned his MD and PhD degrees, Vilcek together with his wife, Marica Vilcek, an art historian, immigrated to the US in 1965 where he joined the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is among the earliest researchers of interferon, an important immune system protein. Dr. Vilcek's contributions to the understanding of proteins that control the body's defenses were instrumental in the development of the anti-inflammatory drug Remicade®, the first member of a new class therapeutics called TNF blockers that are now widely used for the treatment of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other chronic inflammatory disorders. Dr. Vilcek has published more than 350 scholarly papers, and written or edited several professional books. He is also named as co-inventor on 38 U.S. patents. For his discoveries and his philanthropy, Vilcek received a 2013 National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press (February 9, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609806689
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609806682
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Love and Science, a Memoir by Jan Vilcek is a rewarding read for a much wider audience than its title might at first glance suggest. If you are interested in Crohn’s disease and related autoimmune conditions, or in the translation of arcane science into medical therapies, or in the experiences of Jewish refugees from central European Nazism and Communism, or in philanthropy in behalf of highly accomplished immigrants to America in the sciences and the arts, you will find it engrossing. It is also an adventure story of a modest, unprepossessing and quite admirable scientist and his art historian wife.

Vilcek was a key figure in the development of Remicade, a critical drug for the treatment of Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and related autoimmune conditions. Though such a renowned scientist might have been excused for writing a dense, jargon-filled, and self-important account of this achievement, Vilcek writes about the causes of these diseases and the process by which his lab was able to develop Remicade in simple and clear prose that can be understood by the intelligent layperson. Anyone who is afflicted with -- or is concerned about someone so afflicted -- will find the first fifty pages of this book to be very rewarding. These pages also illuminate the sociology and economics of scientific discovery. Vilcek leads the reader through the sequence of scientific breakthroughs that lay the groundwork for the discovery of Remicade and helps us understand the relationships between scientific labs, university bureaucracies, and private sector entrepreneurs that were involved. He describes his insights and decisions that were part of this process, but is also clear that luck was very instrumental in his success.
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Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book—a fascinating window into the life of the renowned immunologist and philanthropist Jan Vilcek.

In a very real sense, this book is a tribute to the American dream. It carries us through Vilcek’s life, from a childhood evading the Nazis in Bratislava, to a scientific career born under Communist regime, to a courageous defection, and, finally, the beginning of a new life in New York. Ultimately, Vilcek goes on to develop Remicade, one of the most successful and life-changing drugs of recent times.

For me, one of the timeliest aspects of the book is its ardent and sincere defence of the value of immigrants in the United States. At a time when anti-immigrant sentiment seems to be on the rise, it is heartening to read about the innumerable contributions foreign-born scientists and artists have made to American life.

"Love and Science" is truly a love story: dedicated to basic science (without which, we are reminded, there would be “nothing left to translate”), to friends and colleagues, to his beloved spouse, Marica, and to his parents. It is a remarkable book about a remarkable life.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book that should help inspire the current generation of young scientists. It tells the story of the extraordinary life of Jan Vilcek. From his youth dodging the Nazis as a Jew to his development as a scientist making key discoveries on interferons, and then finally the unexpected riches from helping to develop one of the most important new drugs for autoimmune diseases ever, and what he decided to do with his funds. His Foundation became a champion of Immigrants to the USA and the contributions they make. What a timely release of this book in current times. The magnitude of his generosity was not clear to me until I read this book. Surely NYU owes him much for its success today. The story teaches much about how science works, how unexpected discoveries can improve the lives of millions and how life is a series of unexpected choices and events.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the riveting true story of one of the world’s greatest living scientists. Jan overcame tremendous obstacles, coming from Nazi occupied Slovakia and later escaping communism, to achieve the American Dream. Through his medical innovations, Jan has helped millions of people, and along the way attained financial success and made philanthropic contributions that he could have never anticipated. His journey is inspiring, motivating and a tribute to the strength and ingenuity of the human spirit. His memoir is also a powerful reminder of the incredible contributions of immigrant Americans to our great nation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fabulous life story, beguiling in its combination of professional achievement and personal modesty. A true inspiration!
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