Amplifying Evolution — Scientific Pioneer, Dr. Kary Mullis

Scientific advances are oftentimes fraught with years of inconspicuous toil in cramped laboratory spaces. At a time when much of science increasingly relies on large-scale processes in which discovery emerges as a result of a multitude of inputs rather than the obvious consequence of one individual’s inspiration, it is unusual these days for a scientist to garner recognition at levels often accorded to virtuosos in other realms. However among the exceptions, Nobel laureate Dr. Kary Mullis (Chemistry, 1993) is credited with one of the most “far reaching” inventions of modern science.

Dr. Mullis’ discovery did not take place amidst rows of beakers and test tubes lining the recesses of a laboratory workbench, but rather while he was driving late one night along Highway 128 one dry hot California night en route to his country cabin in California’s bucolic Mendocino county. About halfway into the stretch between Cloverdale and Booneville at mileage marker 46.58, Mullis experienced what might be characterized as a classic “eureka” moment and pulled off the road to record one of the 20th century’s inestimable discoveries, later to be known as the polymerase chain reaction or PCR. This discovery served to redefine and open the door to the world of DNA and genetics signaling a paradigm shift so profound that it would affect the interests and future of mankind.

Kary Mullis likes to hum when he’s thinking deeply. Those who know him well are reticent to engage him in conversation when he is humming so as to not interrupt what might well be another pioneering thought process underway. It’s probably a good guess that as he was navigating Highway 128 that night in the spring of 1983, he was humming quite a bit. As Mullis recollects, that particular night his mind was occupied by one of his favorite —> Read More