Lucre and altruism are in the makeup of biotech scientists

Rebecca Maksel reviews The Geneticist Who Played Hoops With My DNA And Other Masterminds From the Frontiers of Biotech by David Ewing Duncan, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The legend of the chimera (a creature said to bear the head of a lion and the body of a goat, with a dragon’s tail tacked on) has long fascinated humans. Its modern-day equivalent — organisms composed of two or more genetically distinct tissues — captivates conservatives and liberals alike. In his new book, “The Geneticist Who Play Hoops with My DNA,” Duncan profiles seven scientists on the cutting edge of biotechnology, today’s most controversial science.

Duncan, who has written on such diverse topics as the development of the Gregorian calendar and the history of Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, turns his discerning eye toward the role of personality in science, concluding that individual scientists — and their reputations — are driving the current era of biological discovery as much as the knowledge itself.

And the scientists profiled are an unruly lot, some motivated as much by thoughts of fame as by the desire for knowledge.

More here.