Science and the Cure of Diseases: Letters to Members of Congress

Science and the Cure of Diseases: Letters to Members of Congress

Efraim Racker
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 128
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0z24
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  • Book Info
    Science and the Cure of Diseases: Letters to Members of Congress
    Book Description:

    In the informal language of letters to public officials, Efraim Racker argues in favor of basic research as the most effective path to the treatment of disease. He contends that knowledge of the fundamentals of biological and biochemical processes is essential if we are to gain an understanding of disease processes. He then shows how this understanding is necessary for a rational approach to the prevention and cure of disease.

    Originally published in 1979.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6887-2
    Subjects: Health Sciences, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Efraim Racker
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xv-2)

    There are two approaches to the cure of diseases: basic research and applied research. These are poor labels because they mean different things to different people.

    There is basic research unrelated to the solution of a clinical problem, basic research related to the solution of a clinical problem, clinical research unrelated to the cure of a disease, and clinical research related to the cure of a disease.

    We need to support them all and not worry about classification, and we have to face the problem of allocation of funds. I have made a number of suggestions to meet this serious...

  6. Letter 1 Science and Mental Diseases
    (pp. 3-16)

    My first letter starts with mental diseases because this is where my research as a medical student began. My primary interest then was the cure of mental diseases. How did it come about that now, some forty-five years later, I am doing basic research on membranes?

    Wagner-Jauregg, a famous Viennese psychiatrist who received the Nobel Prize in 1927 for his treatment of patients suffering from syphilitic general paresisdementia paralytica, said in his first lecture to medical students in Vienna: There are two kinds of psychiatrists. First there are those who came to the profession with conviction and devotion, who...

  7. Letter 2 Science and Cancer
    (pp. 17-33)

    Cancer is a complex disease. Although there is one common denominator, namelyuncontrolled cell growth, there are many forms of cancer and many contributing factors. We know that viruses as well as chemicals (called carcinogens) can cause cancer in man and in animals.

    It is fashionable now to talk about the virus etiology of cancer, but I remember that only thirty years ago a mere handful of scientists believed that viruses may play a role in human cancer. Among them was Colin MacLeod, the much loved and admired head of the microbiology department at the New York University School of...

  8. Letter 3 Science and Diseases of Organs
    (pp. 34-50)

    In 1965 a report was published by the Commission on Heart Diseases, Cancer, and Stroke that had been appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. I was a member of one of the panels. I did not get a headache at these meetings but I probably should have. The recommendations of our panel were virtually ignored in the final report, which concentrated on the immediate practical problems of these diseases. Clearly, that was what President Johnson wanted.

    A task force of the National Heart and Lung Institute on arteriosclerosis, organized by Dr. T. Cooper, published an excellent report in 1971. Two...

  9. Letter 4 Science and Genetic Diseases
    (pp. 51-63)

    There is a widespread attitude among physicians and lay people that genetic diseases are hopeless and that there is little one can do. Well, that’s not true.

    Let me start at the beginning. I tried to illustrate in my previous letters how all diseases in a sense are genetic. Schizophrenia has been called a polygenic disease (perhaps multifactorial is a better term) because several conditions appear to be required for the appearance of the manifestations of the disease. I have elaborated on a similar multifactorial complexity in cancer and in diseases of the organs and membranes. Even infections can be...

  10. Letter 5 Society and Science—Funds for Basic Research
    (pp. 64-79)

    In 1831, Faraday conducted experiments on electromagnetic conduction which formed the basis for the electric motor. When he publicly demonstrated his experiments, Gladstone (later Chancellor of the Exchequer) asked him about the practical value of electricity: “One day, Sir,” Faraday replied, “you may tax it.” May, indeed!

    Fortunately, there were always men of vision who supported basic sciences. In 1900, E. W. Rice, Jr., the technical director of General Electric (and later its president), created the first basic science laboratory attached to industry in the United States. This famous laboratory housed many brilliant men including Irving Langmuir, a chemist who...

  11. Letter 6 Science—Risks and Benefits
    (pp. 80-96)

    It has become fashionable to blame “science” for many miseries in the world. People who previously opposed science because it was a luxury, now oppose it because they say it is an evil.

    It is not difficult to document convincingly that science is neither a luxury nor an evil. Although we need to separate the concepts of science from science-derived technology, I do not say that science is pure and technology impure, for I believe that scientists have to share responsibility for the consequences of their discoveries. I shall discuss this at greater length, but here I wish to stress...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 97-100)

    It is the business of science to step forward with dangerous ideas and to prevent and cure the evils that emerge from the technology that is derived from these ideas.

    I realize that the views expressed in some of these letters may sound extreme and could be easily misunderstood. I do not propose that we wait for science to attack current diseases of society. I do not advocate this any more than I would recommend no treatment for medical diseases that we do not fully understand. As illnesses of the body have been treated by great physicians, diseases of society...

  13. Index
    (pp. 101-106)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 107-107)