James E. Darnell

Up from Mississippi A memoir Publication date : March 30, 2023

How did a young native of the American South, raised in an era of racism and segregation, rise to a highly decorated position at the forefront of molecular biology research? Up from Mississippi follows the remarkable career of James Darnell, a major player in some of the discoveries that illuminated our understanding of gene expression, paving the way for medical technologies—including some COVID-19 vaccines—based on messenger RNA. Darnell relates not only the circumstances and details of these landmark findings, but also the shared curiosity and excitement that drove him and his colleagues, and continues to drive his many protégés today.
From childhood and college in Mississippi to medical school in St. Louis, to Paris for a stint at the Pasteur Institute and back stateside to a series of prestigious institutions instrumental to the emergence of molecular biology as a discipline, Up from Mississippi is the story of a life spent in groundbreaking research, among colorful characters who went on to win worldwide recognition—as well as a history of science in the twentieth century.
James E. Darnell is a member of the American National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Lasker Award for Medical Science. He has taught at the Rockefeller University since 1974, and done research and teaching at the National Institutes of Health, the Pasteur Institute, MIT, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Columbia University.