Yesterday and today there was news of fraud by the Korean stem cell scientists who made worldwide news in May of 2005 for their published cloning of human stem cell lines corresponding to afflicted human individuals. Although it seems certain that the Koreans’ work will be disproved and retracted, I prefer to wait for the dust to settle before commenting further on this fiasco. However, in this context I thought that I could discuss my own brushes with overzealous ambition and fraud that occurred during my 30 year career as a bench scientist and researcher. Here is part 1 which relates to events of the 1970’s. I plan to follow-up with some more bizarre examples that occurred in the 1980’s in a second blog (part 2).
During my career as a research scientist I met and worked with many great scientists like Kivie Moldave, Garret Ihler, and Dai Nakada in my formative years at the University of Pittsburgh where I received my Ph.D. Later in my career during my postdoctoral years at Johns Hopkins, I collaborated with Aaron Bendich at Sloan Kettering who was an inspiring cell biologist and protégée of Erwin Chargaff at Columbia. As I established myself as a productive molecular biologist, I formed collaborations with high-powered notable scientists like Klaus Weber at that Max-Plank Institute, Rudi Aebersold at Cal Tech, and Larry Kedes at Stanford. I also interacted with Nobel Prize winners like Linus Pauling, Dan Nathans, Hamilton Smith, David Baltimore, and Howard Temin to name a few. I was uniformly impressed by the precision, intelligence, and focus of these scientists. Never did I see any hint of ambitiousness in these people and their discoveries were infinitely correct, substantiated, and proved by others who followed. No doubt these people were ambitious, but intelligence and precision dominated their personas. This kind of character helped these special people to make great discoveries that advanced human civilization in meaningful and measurable ways.
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