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Creative adaptation, a theme in Dubos' thought and writing for many years, appears anew in this look backward and ahead. Early in his career, Dubos made the important observation that a microorganism could manufacture an enzyme to break down a complex sugar--but only when environmental circumstances demanded it. Now, as he surveys society and technology from 80 years' experience, he again invokes mankind's genetic/evolutionary potential as a means to cope with the stresses and pressures of high technology (or, alternatively, of Third World ""poor"" societies). Global and local themes commingle as Dubos combines autobiography with ecology. He describes his childhood in the ne de France, his adolescence in Paris, and settling in America as a microbiologist at Rockefeller University and a New York City resident--commenting the while on changing landscapes, cityscapes, waterfronts (a special love). He emphasizes the coevolution of humankind and its environment, and their interaction--quoting Churchill: ""We shape our buildings, and our buildings shape us."" The generalities are familiar, but Dubos inflects them with illustrations: the Netherlands as a country literally carved out of the sea; New York (his long-time love) as the vertical city. The message to think globally, but act locally, runs throughout; we should work from the concrete and particular to create environments with the special harmonies and intimacies that are essential, Dubos feels, to the human psyche. In the wake of last year's self-serving interview-biography (Quest, with Jean-Paul Escande), it's a pleasure to report that this latest volume--abrim with intelligent cultural commentary, literary references, and acutely observed detail--reflects Dubos at his accustomed best.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1981
Publisher: McGraw-Hill