Courtesy National Science Foundation

Headlines on the morning of December 14, 2000, trumpeted the end of a presidential election that promised to go on forever. But if California Institute of Technology molecular biologist Elliot Meyerowitz had his way, the front page would have read differently: "Plant Genome Sequenced" at the top, then, lower down, "Election Decided - See Page 2."

In a tour de force that capped a year of genome blockbusters, European, Japanese, and American scientists completed the DNA sequences of chromosomes 1, 3, and 5 of "the little mustard that could," Arabidopsis thaliana. Announced in four papers in a much-awaited issue of Nature,1-4 the sequences joined those from chromosomes 2 and 4 published a year ago,5,6 completing a four-year effort "to understand all the genes in the organism," according to Meyerowitz. While true understanding is still years away, it was a landmark anyway: the first...

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