Words to Live By: Dr. Robert Lefkowitz


June 1, 2021

Robert Lefkowitz, M.D.

This segment features interviews with authors, artists, and community members.

Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist (Chemistry, 2012) who is best known for showing how adrenaline works via stimulation of specific receptors. He is James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at the Duke University Medical Center. Recently, he co-authored “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm: The Adrenaline Fueled Adventures of an Accidental Scientist” with Randy Hall.

Please enjoy Dr. Lefkowitz’s written answers to our questions below, as well as a full in-depth interview via Zoom.

Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?

Medical fiction such as Arrowsmith, The Citadel, etc

What kind of reader were you as a child?

Voracious

What book should everybody read before they turn 18?

1984

What kind of books are on your bookshelf?

Everything. We have a library or several thousand volumes with a fiction section and a non fiction section both organized as in a public library.

What are you reading currently?

A thick biography of Winston Churchill, a book of poetry written by a medical colleague of mine, a book about mathematics for non mathematicians, Plato’s Republic, and an Agatha Christie mystery.

Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?

Fiction: Don Quixote, Non fiction: Winston Churchill

What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?

In bed.

If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?

Winston Churchill, Philip Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer

Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”


In Dr. Lefkowitz’s interview, he mentions his friend’s book of poetry. You can find information about Barry L. Zaret and his three poetry collections here.

The quote, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it” is not directly from Goethe, and is most likely from a lose translation of Goethe’s Faust by John Anster.

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