Sir David Frost meets the scientist who first sequenced the human genome and went on to create artificial life.
When Craig Venter announced in 2000 that he had mapped the human genome – the genetic material that uniquely identifies each individual – it was the sort of blockbuster announcement that comes once in a generation, and it established Venter as one of the most influential scientists on the planet.
“For the first time now we can actually design life in a computer, make the DNA software and create new life forms that have never existed before.“
– Craig Venter
Since then, in addition to further research on the genome, Venter has sailed the world, exploring new life forms and applying this knowledge to another pursuit heretofore dreamed of only in science fiction: the creation of life itself in a laboratory, which he accomplished in 2010.
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Venter has also been tackling the problem of climate change by inventing new methods of carbon collection and alternative energy sources, particularly by growing new forms of algae that not only grab carbon from the atmosphere but can themselves be used to produce oil for fuel.
Sir David Frost visits Venter in his laboratory near San Diego, California, where he learns that Craig began his adult life as an indifferent student turned beach bum before enlisting in the US navy at the height of the Vietnam War, where he worked in the intensive care ward of a field hospital.
Venter takes Sir David for a drive in his all-electric Tesla car, and tells of such encounters as the time he informed Bill Clinton that the former US president was, genetically-speaking, three percent Neanderthal.