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The Craig Venter of 1905


The man-gets-a-life frenzy surrounding Craig Venter’s stuffing of a synthesized genome into a bacterial shell sounds a lot like getting excited over cheap sausage. After climbing the hyperbolic heights in pieces like this gem from the Guardian, the press seems to be coming back down to earth, acknowledging that it’s not like Venter built himself a new cell from nothing, which I suppose is what it would take to create “life” of some plausible sort.

It’s also not the first time this trick’s been reported. As a reading of this Fortnightly piece suggests, the showy Venter might be this century’s H. C. Bastian, an only slightly more sedate miracle-man from 105 years ago.


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