CANTOR'S DILEMMA by Carl Djerassi


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Fleshed out fictionally, an entertaining account of modern scientific enterprise--specifically, the fudging of experiments and the race for the Nobel. If cell biologist I.C. Cantor's new theory of tumorigenesis (sort of a Grand Unified Theory of cancer) is proven, a Nobel is possible. With the prickly encouragement of Krauss of Harvard, the don of cancer research, I.C. returns to his midwestern campus and assigns Jerry Stafford, his best postdoctoral man, to carry out the experimental proof. (Jerry lives with insect-biochemist Celly Price, who occasions a look at women in the sciences; Celly's aunt coincidentally begins an affair with I.C.) Under pressure from I.C., Jerry completes the proof, and their earthshaking paper appears in Nature. Krauss nominates I.C. for the Nobel and attempts to verify the experiment in his lab. Unsuccessful, be tells I.C.; I.C. has Jerry repeat it; Jerry is again successful, but I.C. now suspects Jerry is tampering with the results. I.C. then conceives a second experimental proof and carries it out alone. No longer I.C.'s confidant, Jerry takes a position in Krauss' lab at Harvard. Meanwhile, I.C.'s new experiment works, and the Nobel comes through for I.C. and, surprising both, for Jerry. In his Nobel lecture, Jerry reveals that the original experiment, attempted again, has been successfully carried out at Harvard. Ambiguity lingers, though, as Jerry was at Harvard at the time; I.C. remains uncertain, and Krauss, privy to all, blackmails I.C. Scientist Djerassi (The Polities of Contraception, nonfiction, 1980), inventor of the Pill, offers a convincing (except for the romantic plot-twists) and always interesting look at cutthroat scientists, methodology, the politics and protocol of publishing, and insect biology.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0140143599
Publisher: Doubleday