Cantor's Dilemma: A Novel

This book has been around since 1991, but I had not read it until a colleague suggested that I do. This is the first of least four novels by Stanford chemist Carl Djerassi, best known for his work on oral contraceptives. Professor Djerassi has also written two plays (one about Newton, one about the discovery of oxygen), an autobiography, and a book about artist Paul Klee, whose work he collects. "Cantor's Dilemma" is about organic chemist I. C. ("Icy") Cantor, whose work is recognized with a Nobel Prize. As has sometimes been the case in real life, Cantor's young colleague Jeremiah Stafford, whose experimental genius was essential to the work, is also included in the prize. Cantor's ethical "dilemma" is that he begins to suspect that Stoddard might have faked some critical data. Should he make his suspicions public, killing his own career, or wait for the inevitable process of verification either vindicate or bury him? As a logical candidate for his own Nobel, Djerassi is familiar with the high society of science, and he writes with insight and wit (there is a paragraph about chemist from Wayne State who publishes lots of papers, gets an appointment at Stanford, but not the Nobel). There is even a little s-e-x in the novel. It could be used in a course on ethics in science, but also read just for enjoyment.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Carl Djerassi

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, January 1, 1991