THE ANATOMY OF A SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY by Jeff Goldberg

THE ANATOMY OF A SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

On the heels of Charles F. Levinthal's sturdy but sluggish study of endorphins (Messengers of Paradise, p. 263) comes this exciting chronicle from science-writer (Omni, Playboy) Goldberg of the ferocious international competition between research teams in the 1970's to first isolate those wondrous brain-produced opiates that may hold the key to schizophrenia, drug-addiction, social bonding, and creativity itself. Where Levinthal lectures, Goldberg dramatizes, eschewing the former's tedious prefatory material on exo-body opiates (opium, heroin, etc.) and brain chemistry to plunge right into the personalities and pressures of the race to discover endorphins. As his protagonist--if not quite hero--Goldberg selects bristly, Aberdeen-based British neurologist John Hughes, 30 years old in 1973 and a monument to old-fashioned research: he obtained samples of ""Substance X"" by personally beheading pigs in slaughterhouses and grinding up the brains. Competing with Hughes and his team were several others, better equipped: most notably, that of Solomon Synder and Candace Pert--D.C.-based scientists who won the first leg of the race by pinpointing the brain's opiate receptors--and of Avram Goldstein, whose elegant research paved the way for the Pert/Snyder breakthrough. Goldberg details the conflicting egos, the round-the-clock lab sessions, the underhanded means (one scientist was criminally prosecuted for tests he performed on humans without US government consent), and the high stakes (riches and prestige: Pert's failure to win the Lasker Award turned her into a cause cÉlèbre for women's rights in science). Hughes' team identified an endorphin in late 1975: but that triumph only set off a new race for endorphin-exploitation that continues, dominated by major drug-company interests, to this day. A grippling blend of human drama and science lore, Goldberg's close-focus tale of these modern-day Fausts is a must for science-lovers--and a top bet for others curious about life behind laboratory doors.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Bantam