How do biomedical mandarins view the health of society and humankind in the 21st century? As a yes-and-no proposition,...



How do biomedical mandarins view the health of society and humankind in the 21st century? As a yes-and-no proposition, sensibly if unexcitingly. French physician and journal editor Salomon posed a set of provocative questions--euthanasia? computer-controlled health care? genetic engineering?--to 18 internationally known figures. The group included six Nobelists--Hans Krebs, Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, Christian de Duve, AndrÉ Lwoff, AndrÉ Cournand--and a seasoned mix of French/English/American-based scientists ranging from younger notables like neurologist Floyd Bloom and economist Jacques Attali, to elder statesman like Rene Dubos (and including Jonas Salk, and immunologists Robert Good of Merck and Roy Vagelos of Sharp & Dohme). To the extent that the interviews allowed excursions into individual fields--and a chance to review findings, recall anecdotes, or expound controversial ideas--there is considerable to interest the general reader. A recurrent theme, for example, is the optimistic view that research on immunology may provide more effective (and less horrendous) therapy for cancer, as well as new vaccines against disease. Optimism also prevails in the general attitude toward genetic enginering. Exceptions--to no great surprise--were Lorenz, Tinbergen, and Erwin Chargaff. After a time, however, the litany of Salomon's interrogatives grates--especially since most of the answers are predictably of the yes-but, no-but variety one would expect from intelligent men. And that brings up a point: no women were interviewed, nor were any questions raised about the changing role of women. If one persists in the reading, it is largely because of the individuals' intrinsic interest--though only Christian de Duve had the grace to remark: ""I think it's dangerous to put such questions to a man like me just because I'm a man of science who has made certain discoveries. That definitely does not make me more competent to judge today's society.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983