First Person | Carl Woese

Courtesy of Bill Wiegand

He speaks with the wisdom of someone approaching 75 years of age, with a knowledge of biology acquired from studying cellular evolution for the past 40, and with the assurance of a scientist who has proven himself right, a time or two. Carl Woese, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award recipient who will accept the $500,000 Crafoord Prize in Sweden this fall, is initially reticent about speaking about his life, and himself. But tug at the string a little, and bits unfold. His love of jazz, for instance, and his album collection that includes a teenaged Andre Previn playing jazz piano. Or his memories of visiting his relatives' brewery, with the huge mashers straining away. Or his foray into martial arts, or his summers on the untrampled areas of Martha's Vineyard.

But mostly, this loner of a biophysicist, who uncovered a third...

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