February 27, 1999

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Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
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Important Book

Evolutionary Innovations: The Business of Biotechnology by Maureen D. McKelvey

This book examines the initial commercial uses of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is one of the most modern, controversial and dynamic of the science based technologies. It is not an object but a set of techniques or way of doing things. The development of these techniques from the 1970s onwards illustrates the changing relationships between universities and firms and between basic science and research oriented towards commercial uses. The main focus of the book is on two firms - Genentech in the United States and Kabi in Sweden and their activities and ‘knowledge-seeking’ behavior in the development of human growth hormone and how those ran in parallel with university science. As well as providing a remarkably clear account of these developments (the book includes a chapter on the basics of biotechnology for the lay person), McKelvey also provides a fresh contribution to our understanding of innovation processes by using the evolutionary metaphor to interpret patterns of change where novelty, transmission, and selection are important elements, and where the knowledge-seeking behavior of firms and other agents are critical for survival and development. The book will be of considerable interest to a wide audience concerned to understand the complexities of innovation processes in the ‘knowledge society’ - management and organization researchers, economists, policy advisers, managers and strategies responsible for turning knowledge into product and profit.

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