Dr. Leonard P. Guarente is an American biologist and director of MIT's Glenn Laboratory for the Science of Aging, where he is also a Novartis Professor of Biology. He is best known for his research on longevity and specifically for uncovering the gene in yeast that governs the organism's life span. He is the author of "Ageless Quest: One Scientist's Search for Genes That Prolong Youth," which was published in 2003 by Cold Spring Harbor Press.
Question: Who are your heroes?
Leonard Guarente: I think one hero I would mention is Galileo. The reason for that, and the reason I think at least to my mind he's the greatest scientist, is the way we do science now is to actually have ideas that we can test with experiments. And it's -- this is called the scientific method, so critical to making science more than philosophy. And I think in earlier civilizations -- the Greeks, the Romans -- the greatest minds, the philosophers, they just sort of intuited things. You know, here's the way things must be. And of course that's a recipe for making a lot of mistakes and for having a false impression of the world. And what Galileo did was to say, okay, I have an idea, but I think the way to go is to do experiments and to test the ideas. And that, I think, is the bedrock upon which modern science is built. Also I mean he took a lot of heat for what he did in his lifetime from the Catholic Church, and he was operating under pretty extreme circumstances. And given those circumstances, I think he performed pretty darn well
Recorded on November 9, 2009