Dorothy Pierce was a good pal to the four people who worked for her. They all called her “Dottie.” But as a supervisor, she also had to be tough enough to motivate her team of biotech researchers when the going got rough—and it did, it got very rough at Richmond, Calif. based Stauffer Chemical. The team’s moniker? The corn transformation group. Its task? To become the first scientists in the world to implant a foreign gene into maize.

That was a year ago. Today, the five of them—Dottie and her teammates—have been-scattered to the wind, like seed. One would guess, if one had never heard of them, that they must have been unsuccessful as a research team. What one probably wouldn’t guess is that, on the contrary, they achieved a feat that previously had stymied dozens of other agricultural researchers—a feat with commercial ramifications down the road that could earn...

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