When the name Kary Mullis popped up in my news feed on Monday, I was excited to read what I thought would be an update on the renegade inventor I'd met years ago at a small biotech gathering in San Diego. Back then, in the late 1980s, I'd interviewed him for Genetic Engineering News, where I had the gene amplification beat – a field that began with the polymerase chain reaction, aka PCR.
An Eclectic Technology
Kary Mullis died on Monday, August 12, of heart disease and respiratory failure. He was so quirky that obituaries, like the one in the LA Times, led off with such descriptors as "LSD-dropping, climate-change-denying, astrology-believing, board surfing." That obit calls PCR a "discovery." But the technology wasn't laying around waiting for someone to find it, like an ancient skull. Instead, it was an invention deduced from the scrutinizing the mechanics of DNA replication.
To continue reading, go to my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science.