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The Art and Politics of Science Hardcover – February 2, 2009
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“An engaging read, fascinating as a memoir of Varmus’s personal and scientific journeys, revealing in its account of his stewardship of the NIH. The book is like the man―honest and clear-eyed, thoughtful and outspoken, always good company, with more than a frequent touch of humour and self-deprecation.”
- Scientific American
“[A] perceptive book about science and its civic value, arriving as the White House renews its acquaintance with empiricism. Varmus recounts his laboratory career and tenure as director of the National Institutes of Health, then surveys topical issues like stem-cell research. One implication of this book is that far from disconnecting politics and science, we should find better ways of linking them.”
- Peter Dizikes, The New York Times
“Varmus offers a plain-spoken and fascinating story of his path from graduate student in English literature to the forefront of biomedical research. His journey to the highest echelons of the scientific establishment is as interesting for its incidental details as for its glimpse into the process of modern biomedical science.”
- Seth Shulman, The Washington Post
From the Back Cover
“The Art and Politics of Science is a unique work by a remarkable global leader: a brilliant scientist with the sensibilities of an artist and the leadership skills of a consummate politician. Harold Varmus has done it all―Nobel Prize–winning breakthroughs in cancer biology, masterful leadership of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during its period of greatest expansion, statesmanship of the highest order in global health, and cheerful trench warfare to bring biomedical publications to the open-source Internet age. [This] book is captivating, fascinating, and ever instructive. It will be read the world over with enormous delight and benefit.”―Jeffrey D. Sachs, director, The Earth Institute
“Through an artful melding of science and policy, Harold Varmus conveys not only the excitement of forefront research but also the richly textured human dramas that swirl around pivotal discoveries.”―Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe
“Varmus makes this era’s revolution in biological knowledge as comprehensible as it possibly can be. Varmus’s broad abilities in scientific, literary, and political realms are evident in this graceful and often gently humorous book.”―James Fallows, author of Blind into Baghdad: America’s War in Iraq
“If you’ve ever wondered about the early life of a budding scientist, the experience of doing cutting-edge research, or the translation of brilliant work into public service, read the account of this passionate, politically engaged, deeply humane scientist and marvel at the richness of a life well spent.”―Andrea Barrett, National Book Award–winning author of Ship Fever
“Harold Varmus is a person of legendary charm and limitless vision who has put his gifted mind to the service of science, health, and above all . . . the people of the world. I loved this book.”―Donna E. Shalala, president, University of Miami, and former secretary, Health and Human Services
“Any time any one of us has a cancer scare, or worse, we can be grateful to Harold Varmus and his extraordinary life in science. We are all lucky that Dr. Varmus left literature for medicine. And now, reading this book, we can be grateful that he is so very gifted in both.”―Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Beak of the Finch
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Top customer reviews
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This is a crucial book for anyone trying to understand what's going on in modern science.
However, I did not expect a run-down of the science that led to the Nobel prize and such details on that section. I was not interested in this, and would believe the text boring for many readers not directly involved in research.
I found much of the book, particularly the later sections, to be short stories without clear ends. The problems and solutions at the NIH section in particular was rather lacking in consistency and seemed to be a collection of anecdotes.
The beginning story of English to medicine was interesting, but really, where were the clinical stories? Surely there are examples. And of the Human Genome Project? Others have given their account of the 'race' and I thought that the one herein would be interesting - after all, funding was truely ramped up during the time he was the head of the NIH. Surely there are interesting anecdotes regarding that. And so on...
Overall, I can't give it a low score just because it was not what I expected. I guess I wanted something else.
The author thinks like a scientist but writes like a writer, a rare combination for a first-class scientist. Step-by-step, he describes in layman's terms how he became a cancer biologist and how he discovered proto-oncogenes with his colleagues. The description on science is with such clarity, it is easy and pleasurable to read and appreciate. Then he tells us how he got involved in politics, and using his influence to get things done for good science. To make the book more interesting, the author gives plenty of anecdotes, making me smile, laugh as I went through the pages.
I don't know why, the part moved me to tears was when he talked about
his mother having breast cancer. Even it is just an half page, it was just so touching and powerful! Readers, like me, will make their own judgment, if his mother's illness was the driving force for him becoming a cancer researcher.
Highly recommended to anyone who wants to be a scientist, who loves biography, who wants to know what science is, where we stand, and what is needed for the future of science.
Reviewed by Lijun with permission from Lia, his wife who looks good, to use her Amazon account.
That said, I'm only giving it four stars, because I was disappointed to find this right inside the front cover: "Copyright 2009 by Harold Varmus, all rights reserved." -- not as much of a radical as I'd hoped.