Review of The Art and Politics of Science, by Harold Varmus.
A smiling Harold Varmus looks out from the cover of his memoir, “The Art and Politics of Science.” Behind him hangs a copy of Jacques-Louis David’s celebrated portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the French chemist. Varmus is one of our leading scientific figures, a Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher who advises President Obama, but I’m not sure this is an auspicious image. Lavoisier’s own entanglement in politics led to his beheading during the French Revolution. Thankfully, Varmus seems quite adroit in public matters.
He has also written a perceptive book about science and its civic value, arriving as the White House renews its acquaintance with empiricism. Varmus recounts his laboratory career and tenure as director of the National Institutes of Health, then surveys topical issues like stem-cell research. One implication of this book is that far from disconnecting politics and science, we should find better ways of linking them.
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