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Books, Journals, New Media
April 16, 2003


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(15):1998. doi:10.1001/jama.289.15.1998

Can one be both scientist and political activist? More to the point, can one do good work in both science and politics? According to Jon Beckwith, the qualified answer is "yes." Beckwith is the congenial narrator of his story of splicing life in and outside of the lab, a tale that glances off some of the major discoveries in genetics and political events of his times without dipping too deeply into either.

Beckwith, who made his mark in genetics, was never seized by science: "Neither a life-long devotee of science nor inspired to pursue science by a sudden epiphany . . . I became a committed scientist by a slow process, full of hesitation and uncertainty." Well into postdoctoral work at Berkeley, he was "tempted" away from the bench and into the street, a temptation that ended with relocation to the more austere environs of Princeton, NJ. By the early 1960s Beckwith worked with, among others, Sydney Brenner, Jacques Monod, and François Jacob, in London, Cambridge, and Paris, sojourns that led to a position at Harvard Medical School, where he remains today.