Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Science Fictions: A Scientific Mystery, a Massive Cover-Up, and the Dark Legacy of Robert Gallo Hardcover – January 31, 2002
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
Science Fictions recounts the most notorious biomedical scandal of our times: the Robert Gallo affair. It is not, author John Crewdson says, "about AIDS. Nor is it really about science." Indeed. It is a tale of behavior most base in circles most rarified.
In 1983 Gallo, of the National Cancer Institute, and a group of scientists at Paris's Pasteur Institute announced their isolating of separate AIDS viruses. The stakes--moneyed prizes and patents, not to mention cures--were stratospheric. By 1985, the Pasteur Institute filed suit claiming that Gallo--whose discovery was actually a dead end--had appropriated "their" virus as his own. In 1992, the National Academy of Sciences agreed, accusing Gallo of "intellectual recklessness" and "essentially immoral" behavior.
This definitive, chilling book is also, unfortunately, a daunting one. Its sheer size--notes, glossary, and list of characters alone occupy 100 pages--and scientific complexity will defeat all but the most determined and scientifically informed reader. --H. O'Billovitch
From Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Crewdson (The Tarnished Door) provides a comprehensive and compelling examination of the controversy surrounding the discovery of the AIDS virus. Although the basic facts of the story have been documented before, largely via Crewdson's reporting in the Chicago Tribune, the level of detail and drama here is unprecedented. By quoting extensively from interviews with many of the principals, from the public record and from documents obtained via the federal Freedom of Information Act, Crewdson is able to weave a story that is impossible to put down. Robert Gallo, the National Cancer Institute researcher originally credited with virtually every important AIDS-related discovery, is portrayed as a self-serving scientist willing to manipulate both the data and everyone he encounters in his quest for fame. Described as a "thug" by Harold Varmus, head of the National Institutes of Health, Gallo has won every major award short of the Nobel Prize. Yet, by this account, Gallo's actions have slowed the progress of AIDS research and to have kept the world's blood supply at risk for far longer than necessary. Crewdson also details the alleged complicity of the federal government, which defended Gallo's behavior and methods for years. The only flaw with Crewdson's meticulous reporting is his lack of direct contact with Gallo himself, and so the complexity of the man is not fully realized. Nonetheless, Crewdson's effort deserves high praise and a wide readership.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This is the story of the search for the AIDS Virus in the large, United States NIH cancer laboratories directed by Dr. Robert Gallo, and by a small lab. at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France. In the US, the AIDS epidemic triggered a national program for discovering its cause. While viruses are difficult to detect, the fact that an AIDS illness could be latent for years before producing an observable sickness - and that other viruses are marginally reactive to AIDS - greatly complicates the search for the principle agent. Finally the Institut Pasteur isolated the AIDS virus, they named LAV, from an infected lymph gland excised from a homosexual patient.
Virologists world-wide sort of know each other, and when Gallo received a sample of LAV from France, he acted to suppress its publication, and with his colleague Dr. Popovich, he co-opted LAV for his own use under a different name. The isolation of this virus was essential to the development of an ELISA test kit for AIDS antibodies, that identifies the presence of AIDS in a patient. Thus the US received a Patent for an ELISA test based on the co-opted LAV virus, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
But after nine years of intense controversy, the facts were revealed and the French were awarded the Patent rights in court, and they received back-royalties from sales of the US test kit.
As the book points out, errors in science are more usual than unusual. It is an unsolved mystery why Gallo did not admit his mistake in using LAV. "Had he somehow convinced himself that all the lies were true? Or had he known better all along?" It seems to me, this issue is related to overconfidence in Italian society, since Gallo inherits these characteristics, even as a born US citizen.
The other major player is Gallo's colleague, Dr. Mikulas Popovich, a Czechoslovakian with US citizenship. Those who have worked with foreign immigrants, understand that they do what they are told to do, to avoid trouble in a foreign culture. Popovich did the best he could do under the overbearing attention of Dr. Gallo.
Even so, Gallo's adverse reaction to the news from Fance, can be understood by considering his distress - that the billion-dollar US program, and his future as a Nobel Laureate, were beaten by a few honest scientists at Institut Pasteur.
Gallo's behavior really is quite reprehensible as he purloins virus cultures provided by the Parisian Pasteur Institue in good faith, and Gallo proceeds to engage in one act of bad faith after another. Over the course of the following years Gallo's lies become increasingly untenable until he is forced to begrudgingly admit, after first blaming the French for being the source of contamination by a virus *he* had isolated, that indeed the virus he had claimed to have isolated was in fact the same virus originally isolated by the French. But this is but one of many lies told by Gallo in the appalling tale related by Crewdson.
How Gallo was able to fool so many for so long is an interesting question, especially when so many voices were speaking the truth about Gallo's misdeeds almost from the very beginning. Certainly Gallo's personality played a part -- at time gregarious and charming, and at times bullying and threatening -- but nationalist sentiment also likely played a role. Distasteful as Gallo may have been, he was at least an American investigator, and failure to support him would have meant surrendering victory -- and substantial royalties on HIV tests -- to the French. Nationalist pride no doubt was a factor.
In any event, Crewdson has compiled a most damning dossier on Robert Gallo and his misdeeds, and it is only appropriate that the Nobel Prize was denied him, going instead to the Pasreur Institute's Luc Montagnier and a colleague in his laboratory who actually had first isolated and cultured HIV and developed a reliable HIV antibody test (the test based on Gallo's research was prone to an unacceptably large number of false positives and false negatives).
Crewdson's narrative forms a small part of Randy Shilts' much larger canvas And the Band Played On, but Crewdson's tale is nonetheless important. It iterates in great detail one of the key points of Shilts' text -- how politics and personalities often won out over making progress on research on HIV/AIDS -- and is a fascinating tale in its own right. Robert Gallo makes for a great archvillain at which to boo and hiss, and this should be his lasting legacy, not as is so often erroneously reported, the discoverer (or co-discoverer) of the virus that causes AIDS. Even though the decision was attenuated on appeal, Gallo was found by a group of scientists to have engaged in scientific misconduct, and this should be his "dark legacy" rather than the subsequent whitewashing by lawyers with no scientific expertise.
Highly recommended for those interested in HIV history and policy, as well as in the history and misapplication of science more generally. Supplemented by web site with numerous supporting documents.
Most recent customer reviews
On the entertainment side, I somehow can't get enough of "abuse of power" stories and...Read more