Tag Archives: Kornberg

Science is great but scientists are still people

Time to read again the famous Kornberg article

In parlous times, some truths need to be remembered and repeated. When science is under attack from many quarters, we need to be reminded of the distinctions between the extraordinary power of science and the fallibility of those who practice it. We are aware of prodigious feats in the arts, law, and religion that endure for ages. Yet none of these disciplines offer individuals, as science does, the opportunity to contribute to a progressive understanding of nature. In persuading the public to support scientists in their attempts to achieve a more rational and effective understand-ing of ourselves and of the world about us, we must be clear in distinguishing the uniqueness of science as a practice from the human qualities of its practitioners.

Of serendipity and science

This article was really different to get as the only online version vanished from the internet: ArthurKornberg “Of serendipity and science” Summer 1993, Stanford Medicine.

I like the story of the surgeon who,” while jogging around a lake, spotted a man drowning. He dove in, dragged the victim ashore, and resuscitated him. He resumed his jogging, only to see another man drowning. After he dragged the second one out, and got him breathing, he again wearily resumed his jogging. Soon he saw two more drowning. He also saw a colleague, a professor of biochemistry, nearby, absorbed in thought.
The surgeon called to the scientist to go after one drowning victim while he went after the other. When the biochemist was slow to respond, the surgeon shouted, “Why aren’t you do something?”
The biochemist responded, “I am doing something. I ‘m desperately trying to figure out who’s throwing all these people into the lake.”
This parable is not intended to convey a lack of regard for fundamental issues among clinicians, nor a callousness among scientists. Rather, it portrays the reality that a serious problem, a war on disease, must be fought on several fronts.

Kornberg continues

For thirty years, my research on biosynthesis of the building blocks of nucleic acids, their assembly in DNA replication and the training of over a hundred young scientists, was funded with many millions of dollars without any promise or expectation of marketable products or procedures.