A PhD candidate in English literature at Harvard University, Harold Varmus discovered he was drawn instead to medicine and eventually found himself at the forefront of cancer research at the University of California, San Francisco. In this “timely memoir of a remarkable career” (American Scientist), Varmus considers a life’s work that thus far includes not only the groundbA PhD candidate in English literature at Harvard University, Harold Varmus discovered he was drawn instead to medicine and eventually found himself at the forefront of cancer research at the University of California, San Francisco. In this “timely memoir of a remarkable career” (American Scientist), Varmus considers a life’s work that thus far includes not only the groundbreaking research that won him a Nobel Prize but also six years as the director of the National Institutes of Health; his current position as the president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and his important, continuing work as scientific adviser to President Obama. From this truly unique perspective, Varmus shares his experiences from the trenches of politicized battlegrounds ranging from budget fights to stem cell research, global health to science publishing....more
ebook, 256 pages
May 24th 2010
by W. W. Norton & Company
(first published January 25th 2009)
Loved the first 2/3 of the book. The last half was about Harold Varmus' career and was not as interesting. It is a good read because it shows how someone interested in writing can end up in a completely different career - research scientist. There is quite a bit of science in it but he explains it plainly. He is an excellent writer. The gist of it is how scientists solve questions. The back story is a man and his wife and children who are following their dreams.
A great memoir from one of the outstanding scientists of our day (a Nobel prize winner, the former NIH Director, and the current Director of the National Cancer Institute). What I liked is that it's not only a biography of Dr. Varmus and his Nobel prize-winning discovery of proto-oncogenes. But the book also covers his experience in running the NIH, and the important work he's done to foster open source publishing in science and improved global health.
Very intrigued by people who go from the arts to the sciences (or vice versa). Also curious how he got the US govt to double the NIH budget and whether he might do something similarly science-friendly now that he's part of Obama's administration...
Vaguely pertinent to my current NRSA attempt, and therefore a valid form of procrastination during typing breaks :)
To do: finish the cancer lab and future policy sections...
I feel like I'm punishing the author for having a rather dull interesting life. There are no epic successes or failures but a narrative of competence and ability. I kept reading hoping for some stunning revelation and there was quite little. The time on Sloan Kettering was short and there was little insider information that gave one the feeling of having seen great secrets.
Another book I could not get traction on. It is due back at the library and I won't be going to the effort to take it out again. I only got to page 46 so don't feel it is fair to rate it at all. I'd hoped someone with both a science and literary background would write something that grabbed the reader more. Maybe that happens sometime after page 46....
As an NIH scientific administrator I found this book quite revealing and would recommend it to anyone interested in a scientific career in academia or goverment to give you a behind-the-scences look at NIH science policy. The section on the controversial naming of the AIDS virus was particulary facinating for me since I worked on HIV in the '90s.
Quite interesting for me, especially the discovery of oncogenes, well written, no wonder he was trained on literature before, a versatile man with broad talent: science, literature, medicine, politics, which are coined in the title"the art and politics of science" Many people try to bring science and art together, this''s not a bad one.