the mysterious commonplace book

Why Read It?

The Mysterious Commonplace

Dr. Charles DeLisi launched what is widely viewed as the most important biomedical initiative of the 20th Century. The human genome project provides the basis for understanding some of life’s deepest mysteries: the biological reasons for variation in susceptibility and resistance to disease, the forces guiding the development of an embryo into a full organism, and the evolution of life and the differences between species at the deepest molecular level. Knowledge of the human genome, while still incomplete, has nevertheless transformed the discovery of drugs that are increasing survival and speeding recovery from  cancers, cardiovascular disorders and infective disease.

Although not stated explicitly, even a casual reading of this eloquently written memoir suggests that part of its message is intended to dispel the myth that outstanding achievement, even in science, requires brilliance. The key to success is passion, the courage to take risk, the will to persevere through inevitable disappointments and struggles, and a healthy dose of good fortune. And good fortune for anyone born in the United States is just that: being born in the United States. More specifically, for the author, it means being born and raised in the Bronx. The narrative is in no small part his tribute to environment: to the grade school which helped shape his personal values, to a single children’s book that opened his eyes to a wider world, to family–and to colleagues, mentors and students, without whom he could have accomplished next to nothing. Written by the man who played a pivotal role in changing the course of biomedical science, the Mysterious commonplace provides valuable and sobering lessons for anyone with ambitions to lead and to effectively manage complex organizations, whether in government, industrial or university settings.

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Just as Lewis and Clark set forth to explore a continent shrouded in mysterious possibility, Charles DeLisi pioneered the exploration of a modern-day frontier, the human genome… [his] imagination and determination helped to ignite the revolution… that would ultimately unravel the code of human life itself. At once scientist, entrepreneur, and teacher, Charles DeLisi is also, in the truest sense, a humanitarian, a man whose life work has been life itself.
President Bill Clinton

An inspiring, powerful, and elegantly written self-reflection by a
transformative scientist and educator.
Lex van der Ploeg, PhD
Chairman of the Board, REFIT
Former site head Merck Pharmaceuticals, Boston

Charles DeLisi’s description of his life’s meanderings within science makes for fascinating reading. Here is a true intellectual describing incidents within his life that many of us lesser mortals can immediately appreciate…

I would recommend this [book] to anyone looking for inspiration in their career choice and wondering when or if they should change direction
Sir Richard Roberts, PhD FRS
Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, 1993

This book is the life story of a brilliant scholar whose struggles, accomplishments and awakenings will be an inspiration to young people contemplating a career in science Tetyana L Vasylavia, MD, PhD Texas Tech University,
Health Science Center
Charles DeLisi is a most distinguished engineer, teacher, ecologist, biophysicist, immunologist, spokesman of science and… preeminent champion of agricultural genomics, which can lead us to new medicines and imaginative approaches to challenges of climate change…
a remarkable intellect.
Sheldon Glashow, PhD Nobel laureate in Physics, 1978

A captivating read, the book concisely captures the many ways science impacts the extraordinary challenges we confront today from infectious diseases to readily escalating climate change Dileep Bhattacharya, PhD, Founder and CEO, DeNovo Analytics

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