Fiction Carl Djerassi The Bourbaki Gambit

ISBN 13: 9780820316529

The Bourbaki Gambit

Valutazione media 3,61
( su 46 valutazioni fornite da Goodreads )
 
9780820316529: The Bourbaki Gambit

This novel, like Jurassic Park, hinges on the real-world technology incorporated in the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), one of the most important breakthroughs in biomedical science. The 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry recognized the immense significance of PCR, which is a process for quickly generating and then infinitely replicating fragments of genetic material.

An impostor takes all of the credit in Carl Djerassi's fictionalized account of PCR's discovery and development. As the scientific community eventually discovers, Professor Diana Skordylis is not really one of their own, she is four of their own--three men and a woman--who publish their collaborative work under the Skordylis pseudonym. Two of them American, one Japanese, and one Austrian, they average around sixty-five years of age. Their archetype is a famous group of French mathematicians who actually have been publishing collectively for several decades under the nom de plume of Nicolas Bourbaki.

Revenge is the Skordylis group's initial motivation. Victims of subtle age discrimination, they have all seen their research budgets and faculty privileges curtailed; two have been forcibly retired. Each Skordylis project they complete, each paper they publish under her name, is a satisfying poke at a scientific community that marginalized its senior members.

But PCR is different. It is not only their best work, it is among the best work done by any scientist in recent memory. Professional jealousy soon threatens Diana Skordylis's life, as some group members struggle with the urge to claim their share of the fame and separately seek out PCR's most innovative applications.

Djerassi writes engagingly--and from experience--about the collaborative nature at the heart of the scientific enterprise and the desire for personal recognition in the hearts of most scientists; about the graying of Western science; and about the human frailties and humanistic concerns of its practitioners.

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About the Author:

Carl Djerassi is a professor of chemistry at Stanford University. His books include the novels The Bourbaki Gambit (Georgia, 1994) and Cantor's Dilemma; the autobiography The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse; and essay, short story, and poetry collections. Djerassi is the winner of the National Medal of Science in 1973 (for the synthesis of the first steroid oral contraceptive), the National Medal of Technology in 1991 (for novel approaches to insect control), and the 1992 Priestley Medal, the highest American award in chemistry. He is also the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, an artists' colony near San Francisco that supports working artists in various disciplines.

From Kirkus Reviews:

In Stanford chemistry professor Djerassi's second attempt (following Cantor's Dilemma, 1989) at a genre he calls science- in-fiction, science thrives but fiction is anemic. His themes, announced in a rather didactic foreword, are the graying of Western science and the conflict between collegiality and individual scientists' personal ambition. The narrator, Max Weiss, professor emeritus of biochemistry at Princeton, seeks revenge against a system that forces retirement on people who are still productive. Borrowing an idea from a group of French mathematicians who for years published collectively and anonymously under the pen name Nicolas Bourbaki, he conceives of a stunt designed to show the establishment just how creative oldsters can be. Abetted in this venture by Diane Doyle-Ditmus, a driven feminist historian with access to grant money, Weiss gathers a diverse group of aging scientists with similarly bruised egos: Hiroshi Nishimura, a Tokyo biochemist with a penchant for poetry; Sepp Krzilska, an Austrian molecular biologist; and Charlea Conway, a mathematical biophysicist from Chicago and the group's only female scientist. After establishing the reputation of Diane Skordylis, their chosen pseudonym, with a number of papers in selected journals, they hit the jackpot with a revolutionary technique for replicating fragments of genetic material. (This advance brought its real-life developer, Kary B. Mullis, a Nobel Prize in 1993.) Success spawns problems, however, as the egos of individual scientists resist being submerged, and Skordylis's true identity is soon revealed before an appropriate audience. Unlike Djerassi's memoirs (The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse, 1992), which were filled with engaging stories, not much happens here, and when it does, it happens slowly. Moments that should be dramatic have a static quality, and the dialogue frequently sounds stilted. Djerassi takes pains to make the science clear, however, and the announced themes are developed fully. No Michael Crichton thriller, but an interesting picture of how real science operates. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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