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Lurquin, Paul F. 1942-

Lurquin, Paul F. 1942-

PERSONAL:

Born October 13, 1942. Education: Holds a Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—School of Molecular Biosciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4660. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Washington State University, Pullman, School of Molecular Biosciences, professor of genetics.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Andris Kleinhofs) Genetic Engineering in Eukaryotes, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1983.

The Green Phoenix: A History of Genetically Modified Plants, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Food Plants, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 2002.

The Origins of Life and the Universe, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Charlotte K. Omoto) Genes and DNA: A Beginner's Guide to Genetics and Its Applications, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Linda Stone) A Genetic and Cultural Odyssey: The Life and Work of L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

(With Linda Stone) Genes, Culture, and Human Evolution: A Synthesis, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2007.

(With Linda Stone) Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Paul F. Lurquin is a professor of genetics and a member of the faculty of Washington State University in Pullman, serving in the department of molecular biology. Within his field of research, he has a wide range of academic interests, including experiments regarding the structure of certain cell membranes. These involve applying sufficient electric current so that the membranes become permeable to certain molecules. He is also a pioneer in the science of the genetic engineering of plants. In addition to his experiements, Lurquin is interested in the relationship between genetics as a science and the link between evolution and the creation myths.

Lurquin's research has led him to write or cowrite a number of books on subjects from the genetic modification of plant life to human evolution. In The Green Phoenix: A History of Genetically Modified Plants, Lurquin offers readers a history of agricultural biotechnology that is geared toward professional readers rather than the general public. He mines his own long-term research in the field and chronicles his experiences, including the system of trial and error that has resulted in numerous errors and false starts over the years. Despite the difficulties of the process, it was only through some of his earlier mistakes that Lurquin was ultimately able to stumble across the techniques that proved to be most successful over the course of his career. May Berenbaum, in a review for the American Scientist, noted that "the book really is for contemporary plant molecular biologists and biotechnologists who are interested in the origins of their field."

High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Food Plants, published in 2002, takes a look at the debate that sprang up regarding genetically engineered plants, their safety and quality, and the effect of their development on the output of various farmers and their profits. The cost of using genetically modified plants is prohibitive for a high percentage of the world's population, putting the technology firmly under the control of large, corporate entities. The legal necessity to label products that result from genetically modified plants ranges around the world from minimal to nonexistent. Mark Tester, in a review for Science, remarked: "Lurquin takes an historical approach that, although accurate and useful for students, is probably not the most efficient means of penetrating the minds of either the general public or the busy policy-makers—for whom the more in-depth approach of this book would nevertheless be useful."

The Origins of Life and the Universe looks at the Big Bang Theory from the point of view of a molecular biologist. In this work, Lurquin addresses the theory of the creation of life by looking at the first appearances of various substances on the molecular level that eventually combined to create the universe as we know it. These substances include simple amino acids and proteins, followed by DNA and RNA. Ultimately, once these substances began to unify and combine and mutate, the universe began to contain single-celled organisms, or life at its very earliest stages. Lurquin does not continue on to more complex forms of life. Instead, he simply uses these early phases as a means of explaining the way that life got its start. Using that as a basis for the continued multiplication of cellular life, he explains the eventual complexity of plants, animals, and human beings. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly notes of the book that Lurquin "treats competing theories of the origin of simple amino acids and proteins with an even hand and respectfully refutes some of the objections of neo-creationists."

A Genetic and Cultural Odyssey: The Life and Work of L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, which Lurquin wrote with Linda Stone, is a biography of the famed biologist Luigi Cavalli, later known as L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza. Cavalli-Sforza attended medical school in Italy during World War II, one of the few students of his age not drafted into the war, as those training for a career in medicine were considered too valuable to risk to the armed forces. He owed his continued studies, in part, to chance. He had debated during enrollment whether or not to switch to the newly popular natural sciences, but ultimately decided to stick with medicine, as he had already filled out the proper forms. Following the war, Cavalli-Sforza spent time as a bacterial geneticist before moving on to population genetics. As a major part of his work, he examined the role that chance has in evolution, ultimately making his mark in the natural sciences after all. Lurquin and Stone's effort is the first biography of Cavalli-Sforza to be released. Oren Harman, reviewing the book for the American Scientist, praised the biography overall, but commented that "some of Cavalli-Sforza's claims and models remain contested, and a more detailed analysis of the criticisms would have been welcome in this book, which was written, perhaps to a greater extent than it should have been, under Cavalli-Sforza's guidance." Jonathan Marks, writing for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, opined that the work "unfortunately has little interest in situating Cavalli's work within the history of human genetics, or of genetic-based anthropology."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Journal of Human Genetics, January, 2006, Steve Olson, review of A Genetic and Cultural Odyssey: The Life and Work of L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, p. 171.

American Scientist, March 1, 2002, May Berenbaum, "Green Genes," p. 192; September 1, 2005, Oren Harman, "A Master Synthesizer," p. 457.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January, 2002, L.C. Ewart, review of The Green Phoenix: A History of Genetically Modified Plants, p. 905; December, 2002, H.W. Ockerman, review of High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Food Plants, p. 655; October, 2003, review of The Origins of Life and the Universe, p. 361; November, 2005, J.A. Hewlett, review of A Genetic and Cultural Odyssey, p. 508; June, 2007, H.W. Ockerman, review of High Tech Harvest, p. 1662; November, 2007, D.A. Rintoul, review of Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond, p. 486.

E-Streams: Electronic Reviews of Science & Technology References, October, 2004, Margaret Henderson, review of Genes and DNA: A Beginner's Guide to Genetics and Its Applications.

Heredity, November, 2006, J. Sved, "Genetics for Dummies and Idiots," p. 376; April, 2007, "Dr Cavalli's Wild Ride," p. 243.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December, 2006, Jonathan Marks, review of A Genetic and Cultural Odyssey, p. 1001.

Nature, November 22, 2001, review of The Green Phoenix, p. 397.

New England Journal of Medicine, January 5, 2006, Nyamkhishig Sambuughin, review of A Genetic and Cultural Odyssey, p. 99.

Publishers Weekly, March 24, 2003, review of The Origins of Life and the Universe, p. 66.

Quarterly Review of Biology, June, 2002, "The Exploitation of Plant Genetic Information: Political Strategies in Crop Development," p. 205; June, 2004, Robert Shapiro, review of The Origins of Life and the Universe, p. 200.

Science, November 15, 2002, "Some GM Facts," p. 1341.

Science Books & Films, May, 2003, review of High Tech Harvest, p. 113; September 1, 2004, Martin LaBar, review of Genes and DNA, p. 211.

SciTech Book News, September 2001, review of The Green Phoenix, p. 121; March, 2003, review of High Tech Harvest, p. 133; September, 2003, review of The Origins of Life and the Universe, p. 65; September, 2007, review of Evolution and Religious Creation Myths.

ONLINE

Basic Books Web site,http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/ (February 15, 2008), author profile.

Washington State University, School of Molecular Biosciences Web site,http://molecular.biosciences.wsu.edu/ (February 15, 2008), faculty profile.

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