You have heard the exciting news that the human genetic code has been solved by several brilliant people, with the leading stimulus coming from Craig Venter. He is one of four children of a father who was an excommunicated Mormon accountant who smoked and drank alcohol and coffee and died prematurely at age 59.

In high school, he swam competitively, but did not study. He barely was graduated from high school and headed to Newport Beach to swim and surf. Since he wasn't in school during the Viet Nam war, he was a certain draftee, so he took the naval intelligence test and got the highest score of 35,000 recruits. He became a medical corpsman and went to Viet Nam and watched young men bleed to death.

His wife claimed that his experience in Viet Nam changed him forever. He decided that both life and time are precious and what you lose, you don't get back. He came back from Viet Nam serious for the first time in his life and blazed through college and graduate school at UC San Diego in six years and then went to Buffalo and eventually to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland.

In 1986, he learned about a machine that could read genes, went to meet its builder, Michael Hunkapiller, and within a year, decoded more than 100,000 letters. He CONVINCED Wallace Steinberg to give him 70 million dollars, and used it to form his own company, THE INSTITUTE FOR GENOMIC RESEARCH. At the National Institutes of Health, he had fewer than two thousand dollars in the bank. Now he has his own yacht and multiple sports cars, and throws parties that would make the great Gatsby proud.

Reported 6/27/00; checked 8/9/05

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