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The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rise of ... on the History and Philosophy of Biology) [Kindle Edition]

Lily E. Kay

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Book Description

This fascinating study examines the rise of American molecular biology to disciplinary dominance, focusing on the period between 1930 and the elucidation of DNA structure in the mid 1950s. Research undertaken during this period, with its focus on genetic structure and function, endowed scientists with then unprecedented power over life. By viewing the new biology as both a scientific and cultural enterprise, Lily E. Kay shows that the growth of molecular biology was a result of systematic efforts by key scientists and their sponsors to direct the development of biological research toward a shared vision of science and society. She analyzes the motivations and mechanisms empowering this vision by focusing on two key institutions: Caltech and its sponsor, the Rockefeller Foundation. Her study explores a number of vital, sometimes controversial topics, among them the role of private power centers in shaping scientific agenda, and the political dimensions of "pure" research. It also advances a sobering argument: the cognitive and social groundwork for genetic engineering and human genome projects was laid by the American architects of molecular biology during these early decades of the project. This book will be of interest to molecular biologists, historians, sociologists, and the general reader alike.

Product Description


the book has the great merit to give insight in the expectation of young American scientists and in what troubles their minds! (Cellular and Molecular Biology, vol.43, no.5, July 1997)

About the Author

Lily E. Kay received a Ph.D. in the history of science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1987, and was a recipient of a Smithsonian Fellowship at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. in 1984. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in bibliography at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and has taught at the University of Chicago. Since 1989 she has been an assistant professor of history of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7444 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (7 Nov. 1996)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001F0RHZA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,608,510 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rockefeller's Vision 20 Jun. 2010
By David Chenard - Published on
The information in this book is astonishing. A summary can only sell the book short, but here goes it. The Rockefeller family was hated for lack of business ethics, so they hired a PR man to improve their image. He recommended they give to a worthy cause like improving the health of people or something like that. What they did was form a committee to research what it would take to reform the practices of western medicine. It was determined that buying a relatively small number of the largest medical institutions and controlling what was taught to medical students, they could control how medicine was practiced in America. Well he bought up some medical schools, closed the rest, and effectively removed nutrition, and holistic and herbal medicine from the curriculum, and replaced it with a doctrine of pharmaceuticals and surgery. Of course he owned major shares in the pharmaceutical producing companies and could only profit from this. So instead of doing something that would improve their family image, they improved their family image and began to prey on the ill. I hung on every word in this book and the information it contains is invaluable. I wish everyone could read it.

I'd also like to make a side point. Successful industries create their market, so what do you do if you need to sell drugs to make a profit? You create sick people. How do you do that? You promote unhealthful practices, cure nothing, and make sure doctors only treat symptoms. You also lobby to make it mandatory for children to take vaccines containing aluminum, mercury, cancer causing viruses, foreign DNA, etc., etc. resulting in chronic disease and allergies. That's how, and that is just for starters. Believe it or not, that is what was and is being done to us, and then some. Kind of makes you sick, doesn't it?
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well documented, well written 2 Jan. 2011
By Benjamin Law - Published on
For those interested in the true history of the Rockefeller Foundation's patronage of the life sciences, this is a fantastic book. The author avoids putting a positive or negative spin on the objectives of the Rockefeller Foundation, which adds to her credibility. The first and last quarters of this book deal with the wider social implications of the Foundation's influence and funding. It is in these sections that Kay speaks of the Foundation's twin goals of Eugenics and Social Control. The middle section of the book is more concerned with the history of molecular biology. I find the middle section horribly dry because it is not my area of interest.

I don't know what book the previous reviewer read, but I don't remember anything about the Rockefeller family improving its PR, or owning pharmaceutical companies. Those statements may be true, but I don't remember them from this book.

The conclusion states that in the popular imagination it is logical and natural for science to begin investigating the possibility altering individuals' genetics to weed out disease and promote desirable traits. The author contends that this is not merely the next logical step, but one of the primary reasons why the Rockefeller Foundation supported the life sciences in the first place. The other primary reason is to understand human-kind better so that we can be managed systematically.

The author also clearly explains that the Foundation's influence on scientists is not one of top-down command, but one of mutually reinforcing interests. The symbiotic relationship that the foundation forms with the scientific community is best described by the author as "Hegemony".

Overall, this book was very well written, very credible, and not afraid to call it like it is.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read at all. 22 Sept. 2013
By Craig - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I feel like the author has a lot to say that is of interest on this subject. The trouble is that she writes in such a way that she assumes the reader has much more background on the topic than the average reader is likely to actually have. The effect is that she has made the book inaccessible.
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