Robert Lanza C’78 M’83 has racked up a slew of scientific accolades—and generated an equal amount of controversy—for his pioneering work on cloning and stem cells. And then there’s the private island stocked with dinosaur fossils, the Good Will Hunting comparisons … and his “theory of everything.”
Sixteen miles outside Boston, in the back corner of an unfinished basement, a teenage boy lowers his syringe to a chicken egg and takes aim.
It’s 1969 and this is Robert Lanza’s first time experimenting with embryos. He isn’t yet a well-known scientist. He hasn’t achieved all those cloning and stem-cell firsts, hasn’t been called genius or renegade. He doesn’t have to worry about being killed on his way to work. Journalists haven’t come up with the “real-life Good Will Hunting” analogy or suggested that he open his own Jurassic Park. He hasn’t worked with B.F. Skinner and Jonas Salk, hasn’t told off the former dean of Penn’s medical school. He doesn’t have a private 10-acre island and a house filled with dinosaur bones. That will all come later. Today he’s still just a kid, and he wants to win the school science fair.