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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beguiling story of science at many levels, March 4, 2009
This review is from: The Art and Politics of Science (Hardcover)
Harold Varmus is an unusual scientist, who was a major participant in the most important discovery in cancer biology in history (for which he shared the Nobel Prize with J.Michael Bishop), directed the NIH, the most important medical research center in the world, and is presently the head of Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he has presided over an impressive growth in scientific discovery and clinical applications. In this reflection over his early development as a scientist, his important scientific discoveries, and his political experience in Washington, Varmus brings all of these down to a familiar and understandable level. Somehow this seems both remarkable and yet within reach of non-scientists. We trace Varmus's middle class beginnings, his love of books and flirtation with teaching English literature as a career, rejection from Harvard and acceptance to Columbia Medical School, his fortuitous associations at NIH, to his wonderful collaborations in California. These events are treated with gratitude, irony, and humor. The book is devoid of sentimentality, never condescends, explains the science accurately and simply, and portrays science as it often is, a combination of choosing a good problem, thinking clearly, working hard, and collaborating fairly and openly with students and other scientists. Somehow these simple virtues also worked pretty well in the frenetic Washington environment. For the reader of any background, Varmus's story will appear approachable and informative, a rare glimpse into modern science and science policy. It is an extraordinary career and a captivating story, told in a friendly and often humorous manner, with the goal of informing rather than impressing. It is an easy read that still manages to expand our appreciation of biology and the culture necessary to sustain it.
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Location: Boston, MA USA

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