APPRENTICE TO GENIUS: The Making of a Scientific Dynasty by Robert Kanigel

APPRENTICE TO GENIUS: The Making of a Scientific Dynasty

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Add journalist Kanigel's name to the list of writers who have cannily probed master-disciple relationships in the sciences. Kanigel's dynasty is particularly interesting because the four generations of ""genius"" he traces have carved out a new discipline--neuropsychopharmacology--the area of neuroscience that deals with the naturally existing brain chemicals and synthetic drugs that play a vital role in brain activities and behavior. First in the dynasty was Bernard Brodie, nicknamed ""Steve"" after the daring exploits of the Brooklyn Bridge jumper. Brodie, too, would venture down some untrodden path of research on a hunch. His batting average was extraordinary and his ability to judge talent superb. He hired Julius Axelrod, a mere technician at the time, and put him to the task of developing ways of measuring the metabolic fate of drugs. That research led to the discovery that liver-cell organelles called microsomes were the body's major detoxifying chemical factories. Along the way, Brodie and Axelrod discovered acetaminophen--Tylenol. By the time of the microsome discovery, however, Axelrod and Brodie were sparring, Axelrod fuming that he did not get sole credit. They were then master and apprentice at the Heart Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Eventually the split came and Axelrod built up his own superlab with a rising star, Solomon Snyder. Snyder, still rhapsodic over his days with ""Julie,"" left the NIH for Johns Hopkins and the discovery of the opiate receptor--a discovery for which he got the credit that his very vocal protÉgÉe, Candace Pert, felt she should at least have shared. Overall, Kanigel succeeds very well in demonstrating, for scholar and general reader alike, the emotional intensity of science, the gem-like flame that inspires brilliant teachers and students--but by which they occasionally get burnt.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1986
ISBN: 0801847575
Publisher: Macmillan