In 1989, J. Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery that normal genes under certain conditions can cause cancer. In this book, Bishop tells us how he and Varmus made their momentous discovery. More than a lively account of the making of a brilliant scientist, How to Win the Nobel Prize is also a broader narrative combining two major and intertwined strands of medical history: the long and ongoing struggles to control infectious diseases and to find and attack the causes of cancer.
Alongside his own story, that of a youthful humanist evolving into an ambivalent medical student, an accidental microbiologist, and finally a world-class researcher, Bishop gives us a fast-paced and engrossing tale of the microbe hunters. It is a narrative enlivened by vivid anecdotes about our deadliest microbial enemies—the Black Death, cholera, syphilis, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox, HIV—and by biographical sketches of the scientists who led the fight against these scourges.
Bishop then provides an introduction for nonscientists to the molecular underpinnings of cancer and concludes with an analysis of many of today’s most important science-related controversies, ranging from stem cell research to the attack on evolution to scientific misconduct. How to Win the Nobel Prize affords us the pleasure of hearing about science from a brilliant practitioner who is a humanist at heart. Bishop’s perspective will be valued by anyone interested in biomedical research and in the past, present, and future of the battle against cancer.