6.5 years ago by
I'll tell an acedote about the book that introduced me to bioinformatics.
Let me preface that I have three big interests in my life: biology, computer science and sailing. The year was around 2000, and I had found the book The New New Thing : A Silicon Valley Story by Michael M. Lewis. It was about two of my interests: computer science and sailing.
It is the biography of Jim Clark, a technology entrepreneur who is about to create his third, separate, billion-dollar company: first Silicon Graphics, then Netscape--and now Healtheon, a startup which he hopes will turn the $1 trillion healthcare industry on its head. But after coming up with the basic idea for Healtheon, securing the initial seed money, and hiring the people to make it happen, Clark concentrated on the building of Hyperion, a sailboat with a 197-foot mast (at the time of her launch, she was the largest sloop ever build and the tallest mast ever built), whose functions are controlled by 25 SGI workstations. As the title implies, Jim Clark is a restless man who was always looking for the new new thing, the next big breaktrough. Near the end of the book Michael Lewis tells about one of the new things of Jim Clarks radar, a new emerging field called bioinformatics.
I remember sitting there in my chair, staring at that sentence and thinking "What! I can combine both biology and computer science!" From that moment on I was hooked.
(The book with the ultimate triumvirate, where the three of my interest -biology, computer science and sailing- were combined, came later with the autobiography of Craig Venter, A life decoded, where he writes about the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition he undertook with his personal 95-foot sailboat named the Sorcerer II. The expedition sampled water from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the Eastern Tropical Pacific while undertaking a two year circumnavigation. The micro-organisms in the water were sequenced and the results were published, more then doubling the amount of genetic sequences available up to that point.)