A Life Decoded

  • by J. Craig Venter
  • Narrated by Dick Hill
  • 16 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Growing up in California, J. Craig Venter didn't appear to have much of a future. An unremarkable student, he nearly flunked out of high school. After being drafted into the army, he enlisted in the Navy and went to Vietnam, where the life-and-death struggles he encountered as a medic piqued his interest in science and medicine. After pursuing his advanced degrees, Venter quickly established himself as a brilliant and outspoken scientist. In 1984 he joined the National Institutes of Health, where he introduced novel techniques for rapid gene discovery. He left in 1991 to form his own nonprofit genomics research center, where he sequenced the first genome in history in 1995. In 1998 he announced that he would successfully sequence the human genome years earlier and for far less money than the government-sponsored Human Genome Project would - a prediction that came to pass in 2001.A Life Decoded is the triumphant story of one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in science today. In this riveting and inspiring account, Venter tells of the unparalleled drama of the quest for the human genome, a tale that involves as much politics as science. He also reveals how he went on to be the first to read and interpret his own genome and what it will mean for all of us to do the same. He describes his recent sailing expedition to sequence microbial life in the ocean, as well as his groundbreaking attempt to create synthetic life. Here is one of the key scientific chronicles of our lifetime, as told by the man who beat the odds to make it happen.


What the Critics Say

"[Venter is] not just trying to understand how life works; he's trying to make it work for him, and us." (The Atlantic Monthly)
"Well worth reading for the fascinating perspective it offers on one of the major scientific discoveries of all time." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


-The storyline is classic: a horrifying vietnam experience motivates Venter to "live life to its fullest". Provides great insight into the personal motivations of a world class scientist.

- Good balance of the "tabloid politics" with the hardcore science of sequencing the human genome. Note, prior genetics knowledge is not required, but it will definitely enrich the experience.

-Also, I thought the Narration was excellent.
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- Nathan

Take it with a Grain of Salt

Craig Venter in "A Life Deoded" sets out to detail his involvement in the unraveling of the Human Genome. This is a great story and a wonderful read. Opening autobiographical sections drag a little, but things pick up when his research begins. His sections on the establishment of TIGR, Celera, and JCVI are more interesting than one might imagine.

That said, an autobiography must be biased and one sided (as the author points out in the introduction). Yet his descriptions of political hazards of funding biological research are worth reading. The listener will benefit from the information about Genes and the research in general.

Craig's first two marriages came apart. He missed out on raising his son from the first. Craig seems to regret his loss, but never really reflects on the price paid by his son for his glory. His son paid for the Human Genome project as well. I wonder if Craig ever took his son along to share his visits with the Clinton's in the White House?
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- Roy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-24-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio