Title: Prize Fight: The Race and Rivalry to be the First in Science
Author: Morton A. Meyers
Genre: Nonfiction: Science; Medicine
We often think of scientists as dispassionate and detached, nobly laboring without any expectation of reward. But scientific research is much more complicated and messy than this ideal, and scientists can be torn by jealousy, impelled by a need for recognition, and subject to human vulnerability and fallibility. In Prize Fight , Emeritus Chair at SUNY School of Medicine Morton Meyers pulls back the curtain to reveal the dark side of scientific discovery. From allegations of stolen authorship to fabricated results and elaborate hoaxes, he shows us how too often brilliant minds are reduced to petty jealousies and promising careers cut short by disputes over authorship or fudged data.
Prize Fight is a dramatic look at some of the most notable discoveries in science in recent years, from the discovery of insulin, which led to decades of infighting and even violence, to why the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine exposed how often scientific objectivity is imperiled (from Goodreads).
Thoughts: I won Prize Fight through LibraryThing’s early review program, although since this book was published in 2012I’, I’m not sure how exactly it qualified for the November 2013 batch. Regardless, I thought this book could be interesting, so I entered to win it, and I did! Prize Fight explores contentious scientific discoveries that have driven rifts though science; those discoveries where there are competing claims as to who should be named the discoverer of the AIDS virus, or the inventor of the MRI, for example.
This is a short book- only 234 pages- but it was thought-provoking nonetheless. I particularly was grateful for Meyers making the effort to make known just how hard it was for women in science and the terrible sexism that they faced. Meyers won me around early on when he talked about how horrible James Watson was to Rosalind Franklin. Although the two main contentions discussed- the discovery of the AIDS virus and the invention of the MRI- dealt with disputes between men, Meyers did provide many examples of women scientists and their struggle to gain recognition for their work and to be taken seriously by their male colleagues.
Meyers not only tells us about famous scientific disputes but reveals their underlying layers- the tension between student and teacher, head scientist and research assistant and just how far scientists are motivated by a desire for recognition, lucrative grants, prize money, and prestigious awards. He also provides suggestions as to what scientists can do to lessen the chance of contention arising in regards to authorship priority and the proper inclusion of credit. Prize Fight was quick and interesting peak into the inner workings of the lab the disputes that arise within it.
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