“Once again, Gerald Weissmann, with a firm and easy knowledge of everyone who matters from Auden to Zola, bridges the space between science and the humanities, and particularly between medicine and the muses, with wit, erudition, and, most important, wisdom.”
Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and The Table Comes First
Admired by Nobel prize–winning scientists and literary tastemakers alike, Gerald Weissmann amazes and beguiles as both a masterful commentator on contemporary culture and a transcendent intellectual historian. By turns satirical and insightful, Mortal and Immortal DNA takes us on a nuanced exploration of the western canon, from Greek mythology through Dante to W.H. Auden and offers hilarious insights into popular culture along the way, from Paris Hilton to the true life story of Kathryn Lee Bates, the lesbian poet who penned “America the Beautiful.”
Excerpt from Mortal and Immortal DNA
In his historic The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959), C. P. Snow described a wide gulf between the two cultures of science and the humanities. He defined two very different worlds: one inhabited by folks who are able to sort out Plato’s Myth of the Cave, and another by those who can recite Newton’s second law of thermodynamics.
There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with scientists and then gone off at night with some literary
colleagues. . . . If I were to risk a piece of shorthand, I should say that scientists naturally had the future in their bones.
Writing at the dawn of the atomic age, Snow was concerned that not having “the future in their bones” might lead scientifically illiterate folk to obliterate the world by nuclear mischief. But nowadays, the gulf between the arts and the sciences has been filled by the silt of popular culture, and the mischief people fear is that of experimental biology. Many in the most avant of the literary garde have turned from math to myth, while many of the folk doing the newest of science haven’t looked at a line of verse since college. I share with W. H. Auden the recollection that ”My father was both a physician and a scholar so I never got the idea that art and science were opposing cultures—both were entertained equally in my home.” The essays in this book are addressed to those interested in keeping the entertainment going.