Summary of Medicine, Science and Merck

The First Three Careers of Roy Vagelos

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Medicine, Science and Merck book summary
The son of immigrants, Roy Vagelos rose to become the purposeful CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck. Here's how and why.


6 Overall

5 Applicability

5 Innovation

7 Style


Roy Vagelos lived a rags-to-riches dream. He culminated his career as CEO of Merck, a giant company whose employees used to take lunch breaks at the store where he swept the floors as a boy. This is an inspiring tale, but not directly instructive. The author offers no tips for doctors, scientists or executives, nor does he address most of the current hot-button issues facing pharmaceutical companies. Vagelos simply, matter-of-factly presents the story of one man’s life and achievements, without preaching or teaching. He does offer insights into scientific research (maybe too many, but this is his passion), into competitive hiring and into his management approach. His discussion of Merck’s public health initiatives provides a much-needed counterpoint to the bad press the pharmaceutical industry has received in recent years. getAbstract suggests this book to those interested in Merck’s history, in the pharmaceutical industry, in biochemistry or in a perfect example of an American immigrant’s rise to success.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Who Roy Vagelos was and what life he led;
  • How he used his medical training as CEO of Merck & Co.; and
  • Why he believes Merck is a good company, in contrast to the bad press surrounding the pharmaceutical industry.


My Early Years
I was born in 1929 to a Greek immigrant family who ran an ice cream parlor in Westfield, New Jersey. The Depression years were hard on us, and as a young boy I was proud to help in the store. I learned the importance of hard work and family, but I did not apply myself in...
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About the Authors

Roy Vagelos was CEO of Merck & Co., Inc. from 1985 to 1994. The author of more than 100 scientific papers, he is now chairman of both Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Theravance, Inc. Louis Galambos, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, writes on U.S. business-government relations and the rise of the bureaucratic state. His books include Anytime, Anywhere.

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