A DNA sequence. J. Craig Venter, biologist, was one of the first scientists to sequence the human genome. Credit: Micah Baldwin / Flickr Creative Commons
- J. Craig Venter, biologist and author of "Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life"
J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, is one of the most famous biologists alive. But he didn't take a conventional path to success. A self-professed beach bum as a young man -preferring to log time on the water than in the classroom - Venter had no interest in college when he graduated from high school. And then something happened that changed everything.
Drafted into the Vietnam War in 1967, Venter found himself a Navy Corpsman medic, administering complicated procedures on the battlefield. The experience awakened his interest in medicine, and after the war he earned both a Bachelor's and a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego.
Perhaps because he didn't travel a normal path, Venter is an incredibly creative thinker. In the early 2000s, Venter was one of the leading figures in the race to sequence the human genome - even using his own DNA samples to do it. Now, he's on the forefront of a whole new generation of biological breakthroughs, including the ability to create your own flu vaccine at home with a code sent through the Internet.
For more on Venter's unconventional approach to biology - including his views on government versus private funding for scientific research, and the nature versus nurture debate - tune in to our full interview, above.