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INTRODUCTION

All of life is an emergence out of the inanimate universe. Our very atoms were fashioned in the incandescence of exploding stars. Each human life is likewise an emergence. A new combination of genes is formed and thrust into a particular environment; as it develops, interacts, and learns throughout all the years of life, a new human being emerges. This book is the story of one person, of his continuing emergence, and of his roles in the emergence of a new science and a new university.

I am a biologist, a molecular biologist, I have wanted to understand the nature of life, the extraordinary properties of living organisms, and their abilities to grow in a patterned way, to act in a seemingly purposeful manner, to reproduce themselves faithfully and yet to change, to evolve, gradually over myriads of generations. It has been my extraordinary, fortune to live in the greatest period thus far in the history of biological science (perhaps it will be seen as the greatest period ever): the era when the machinery of life became evident, when enzymes and genes and viruses became tangible, when subcellular structures, fibers, particles, channels, and vesicles emerged discretely from the obscurity of "protoplasm." During my lifetime, our understanding of the nature of life has advanced incomparably, and it has been my privilege to participate in that achievement.

Scientists find the natural world endlessly absorbing. While they may appreciate the artistry involved, they have no need for the fantasy worlds of the novelist, the playwright, or the movie scriptwriter. The calculus of human emotions, the coils and scars of the human psyche so often


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mangled in childhood, the thrust and parry, the bonds and fractures of human relations that seem to gratify the egos of so many seem to us often to pale in import compared to the quest for deeper knowledge.

Throughout history, some have sought to live in contact with the eternal. In an earlier era, they sought such through religion and lived as monks and nuns in continual contemplation of a stagnant divinity. Today, they seek such contact through science, through the search for understanding of the laws and structure of the universe and the long quest back through time and evolution for our own origins. Perhaps this urge is a riposte to fate, a nay to human mortality.

But scientists are not monks and nuns. The results of their labors increasingly have major worldly consequences; as Francis Bacon foresaw, knowledge of nature is the key to power over nature. And their "devotions" are costly and require significant public support.

As science has penetrated ever more deeply beneath the surface of matter and of life, the societal impact of its discoveries and their technological applications has become ever more profound. The growth of knowledge has increasingly challenged and taxed our ability to use it wisely. This challenge is all the greater in a democratic society, ultimately reliant on the knowledge and good judgment of all its citizens.

I have throughout my career also been an educator. I have sought to mentor the next generation of scientists. I have also sought through discussion and education to provide that public understanding of science which is essential for its continuing support and its wise use. I have been associated with the two finest institutes of technology in the nation, MIT and Caltech, and was for a time on the faculty of one of the finest—if not the finest—agricultural schools in the nation at Iowa State. I was also for a decade the chancellor of the newest campus of the University of California, generally recognized as the finest public university in the United States.

However, even at this level, I have observed little unequivocal success in higher education comparable to that in science. Rather, I have seen education beset with intertwined problems—coping with the great increase of knowledge and the resultant greater demands on the educational process to produce informed citizens and skilled workers; adapting to an augmented democracy that has made higher education a goal of almost all youth with the resultant diversification of the student body with respect to background and motivation; meeting the needs of an increasingly secular society that looks to education to fulfill roles formerly provided by religion. Overall, higher education has lost internal


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coherence and, with it, external authority. In consequence, it has been increasingly subjected to external oversight and interference.

In my various roles, I have tried to guide this evolving process into meaningful and clarifying directions. But, as compared to that of science, progress in education has been much more tentative, uneven, and difficult to measure. And progress in the scientific education of the general public has been even less able to cope with the pace of scientific advance.

Happily, for some students, higher education continues to provide the doorway to continuing achievement and personal satisfaction. These graduates will be the ones to find the next solutions in science and, one hopes, in education.

We live in a unique time in the history of life on Earth, the time when a species first began to understand its origins, its inheritance, its biological functions and their aberrations. After three billion years, in our time we have come to this understanding, and all of the future will be different.

When I entered biological science, it was not obvious that the hidden, mysterious processes of living cells would yield so readily to the tools of modern chemical and physical analysis, that the processes of life would be so linear and so dissociable that individual components could be separated and reassembled to execute individual steps in isolation. In retrospect, we can understand this functional simplicity to be the result of a conservative evolutionary process that made design changes one at a time and that conserved and replicated effective patterns over millions of millennia.

I have been so fortunate to be "in" at this historic unfolding, the "great leap" forward, the penetration of the secrets of inheritance and the machinery of life. But first my own life had to unfold. How did it happen that I would be poised to be part of this unparalleled epic of discovery?


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INTRODUCTION
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