7. The prologue

Rarely does one find Maxine Singer outside a public place without a lit cigarette. Once, a scientific colleague described Maxine walking up the winding road near the Carnegie Institution building, named after her, on the edge of the Johns Hopkins campus as “a diminutive white-haired lady surrounded by a cloud of smoke.” Yet she can survive hours on end in a conference room or a meeting hall without a cigarette.

I first met Maxine when Alan Scott invited her to Hopkins to present a seminar on her work on repetitive DNA. It was the early 1980s, and Maxine had immersed herself in a new field. She had been universally recognized as a world-class nucleic acid biochemist, working on RNA enzymes. Recently, she had begun an effort to ...

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