WILMINGTON, DEL.—When Du Pont executives first tried to recruit Mark Pearson back in 1982, he didn't take them seriously. After all, he reasoned, with no corporate history of ground-breaking work in molecular biology, what would the company do with a director of one of the National Cancer Institute's molecular biology laboratories? "Besides," he adds, "they were a chemical company."

Not any longer. Within the past five years Du Pont has embarked upon new ventures in electronics, imaging, and even life sciences—for example, protein structures and agricultural science have been added to the company's portfolio alongside the more traditional businesses of polymers, chemical structures, and petroleum. That's why, six years ago, corporate management set out after molecular biologist Pearson. And that's why Du Pont called his bluff.

It seems that even though Pearson didn't take his recruiters seriously, he managed to tell them what he thought a molecular biology outfit ought...

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