Challengers and our Lives

Challengers and our Lives

Here is an interesting story of some brightest minds who required consistent efforts to shine their light on the world.

Welcome to One Up Your Career – the daily info-vitamin capsule ?? by Unnati to help you growth hack your career.

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Hey Pal,

This week, I am exploring inspirational stories from past and present to share with you. I started this newsletter with the objective of catering career advice to job seekers but the prevailing time has called it to be empathetic. I know there are few job interviews happening, companies have ceased hiring, the workforce is being reduced. And all of this is due to the unpredictable future that we are headed towards. At this time, it is only appropriate to try to understand your anxiety and dig up the stories that prove that human species have the highest survival instinct and we always find a solution to the problem sooner or later.

My article today is based on a podcast by one of my fav authors and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell. This story is about Howard Temin, David Baltimore, and Robert Gallo; a group of scientists whom Gladwell is bunched together as the so called obscure virus club.

There was a time when these remarkable work by these scientists were overlooked, shunned by their peers, and easily dismissed. These were brilliant scientists but were unable to get their findings published. So how did they overcome the situation, and to what impact? Read till the end to find out.

Till 1960 scientists believed that only DNA was capable of passing information to an RNA and not the other way round. Cancer was not considered pertinent to any virus and moreover, viruses were not a popular research topic. Working in an isolated room in the basement, Temin observed an RNA virus that was capable of mutating the host DNA. It was quite unlikely to the popular belief mentioned earlier. He wanted to publish his findings but was rejected for not having definitive data and also because it was challenging the fundamental facts about human genetics discovered till then.

No rejection was powerful enough to dissuade these scientists. Temin went on to research for six more years to prove their theory and finally discovered reverse transcriptase (RT); so did Baltimore in independent research. This was a tiny enzyme in the RNA that made it possible to insert itself on the DNA. Today, it is known as retrovirus which is responsible for causing diseases like cancer, HIV, and Hepatitis B.

Temin and Baltimore were honored with the Nobel price for their scientific contributions. In 1980, the world was hit by HIV but it was tackled quickly because the scientists had the headstart based on the concept of retrovirus.

It ended well for Temin and Baltimore but I was taken aback by the fact that there was a time we were overlooking an important piece of information related to our health and rejecting life-saving discoveries. Just think about what our lives would be if they did not have the courage to take the unorthodox path or to challenge the dogma. Gladwell in his podcast raised some appropriate questions for each of us. How should you act to novel difficulties and circumstances? How well do you adapt to the idea of choosing a different path away from the orthodoxy? 

And while you are mulling over the questions do not forget to appreciate the incredible relentless attitude displayed by these scientists. They did not give up in the face of any adversity until they proved themselves. Come what may they carried on till the end. And so can we in this distressing time.

There is another interesting part of the story that caught my attention. Did you know how long it took to identify the RT enzyme? Mere two days. It was just a matter of opening to the idea of new possibilities. Boundaries and limitations are what we create for ourselves but it is only when you choose to overstep the boundary, discoveries are made.

If you were looking for motivation to remain hopeful then the story of the obscure virus club is a good place to start.

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