The quest for the $1000 genome

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I once had a professor who claimed that Viagra was the logical endpoint of all science. "We did it!" he exclaimed, one day in class. All those millions of years ago, he argued, the first real attempt at a medical experiment probably came in the form of a thick-browed Neanderthal chewing on a leaf and hoping for some aphrodisiac effects. The professor claimed that the quest to control our own sexual natures was the oldest in human history, but I always thought there was something much more primal. While his was an amusing thesis, it seemed that the real ultimate quest in science was to figure out just what in the hell we are. More than the quest to control our natures, it is the quest to understand that nature that has truly obsessed mankind.

Thus, it seems that the most logical point in scientific history to name as our "We did it!" moment is the sequencing of the first human genome. After hundreds of thousands of years of prodding, both intellectually and physically, after the rise of both human dualism and human dissection, it took little more than a century to build from the discovery of DNA to the total sequence of the human blueprint. After all that time, and so many productive scientific lives wasted on non-starter theories of human nature, we finally had our answer.