The Collectors Of Lost Souls: Turning Kuru scientists into whitemen
The John Hopkins University Press (Footprint Books), $49.95 hb, 318 pp
In 1976 Carleton Gajdusek received the Nobel Prize for his scientific research into Kuru, a degenerative brain disease that afflicted a small population of Fore people in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. This book is the story of the complexities of that scientific discovery as a social process. It is also the story of Gajdusek, a medical scientist whose intellectual energy and boundless egotism ensured that the fame and glory associated with this medical advance were his, unambiguously and singularly.
As a child, Gajdusek, born in New York in 1923, was inspired by stories of scientists as heroes, and entranced by tales of exploration and adventure in exotic places. As an adult, having graduated in medicine and embarked on a research career, he managed to sustain these enthusiasms as he engaged in a series of research projects that reflected his scientific eclecticism and his wanderlust.