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Though he may not have realized it at the time, Watson stood at the threshold of a new era in biological science. At the time of the discovery of the double helix, science in biology and chemistry was essentially a craft, a practical art. It was practiced by a few men working in small groups, primarily under the auspices of academic research. The seeds of change had already been planted, however. With the advent of several medical breakthroughs, notably the polio vaccine and the discovery of penicillin, biological science was about to become an industry.
Today organic chemistry, molecular biology, and basic medical research are not practiced as a craft by a small body of practitioners, but pursued as an industry. While research continues in academia, the vast majority of researchers, and the vast majority of research dollars, belong to the pharmaceutical industry. This alliance between science and industry is an uneasy one at best. While pharmaceutical companies can fund research at a level undreamed of in academic institutions, they also fund research with a vested interest. Consider: would a pharmaceutical company rather put major funding into research for a cure for an illness that is therapy-based or medication-based?
Computer science, too, must exist in an uneasy alliance with industry. Once new ideas came primarily from academic computer scientists; now the computer industry drives innovation forward. While the rank and file of Open Source programmers are still the many computer science undergrads and graduate students around the world, more and more Open Source programmers are working in industry rather than academic settings.
Industry has produced some marvelous innovations: Ethernet, the mouse, and the Graphical User Interface (GUI) all came out of Xerox PARC. But there is an ominous side to the computer industry as well. No one outside of Redmond really thinks that it is a good idea for Microsoft to dictate, to the extent they do, what a computer desktop should look like or have on it.
Industry can have a negative impact on innovation. The Graphical Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) languished incomplete for a year at beta release 0.9. Its creators, two students at Berkeley, had left school to take jobs in industry, and left their innovation behind.