Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of by John Tyler Bonner

By John Tyler Bonner

Starting with the invention of genes on chromosomes and culminating with the unmasking of the main minute genetic mysteries, the 20 th century observed outstanding and unheard of development within the technological know-how of biology. In an illustrious occupation that spanned many of the century, biologist John Bonner witnessed lots of those advances firsthand. half autobiography, half background of the extreme transformation of biology in his time, Bonner's ebook is actually a lifestyles in technological know-how, the tale of what it really is to be a biologist gazing the unfolding of the intricacies of existence itself. Bonner's medical pursuits are approximately as assorted because the matters of biology, starting from animal tradition to evolution, from lifestyles cycles to the advance of slime molds. And the extreme solid of characters he introduces is both varied, between them Julian Huxley, J. B. S. Haldane, Leon Trotsky, and Evelyn Waugh. Writing with a allure and freshness that carry the main sophisticated nuances of technology to existence, he pursues those pursuits in the course of the hundred years that gave us the invention of embryonic induction; the translation of evolution when it comes to alterations in gene frequency in a inhabitants; development in realizing of the biochemistry of the telephone; the start of molecular genetics; awesome insights into animal habit; the emergence of sociobiology; and the simplification of ecological and evolutionary rules via mathematical versions. during this panoramic view, we see either the sweep of global occasions and clinical development and the animating information, the non-public observations and studies, of a profession carried out of their midst. In Bonner's view, biology is basically the learn of lifestyles cycles. His publication, marking the cycles of a lifestyles in biology, is a becoming mirrored image of this learn, with its countless, and infinitesimal, diversifications. (20020315)

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He had a remarkable ability to put elegant sentences together and at the same time manage to make the most mundane topic seem fascinating. He interlaced his lectures with asides and humorous stories that not only kept one in rapt attention, but made it so the biology was hard not to absorb. As a young, eager freshman I had never experienced anything like this, and I was overwhelmed. My first university course in biology not only influenced my future as a teacher but caused me to fall in love with the algae and the fungi, and I decided right away that I wanted to 44 BECOMING A BIOLOGIST become a “cryptogamic botanist,” as anyone working with these lower plants was called at that time.

Even the way science was done did not change much; those changes came later. All the equipment in the laboratory was of the utmost simplicity: crude balances, handcranked centrifuges, lovely brass microscopes (with fantastic 16 THE WORLD OF MY ELDERS optics developed by the early German optical companies), and the simplest kind of glassware. What innovations there were involved perfecting what already existed. To give an example, Hans Spemann was able to perform his delicate experiments on amphibian embryos by inventing simple ways to make glass microneedles for his operations.

Guyénot, who was pursuing some experiments with T. H. Morgan’s fruit flies. I saw not only the normal, red-eye flies in a vial with the larvae crawling through a banana mash at the bottom, but also a white-eye mutant, which—I only appreciated many years later—was the first mutant discovered in Morgan’s fly room at Columbia University. I think my only thought at the time was how much fun it must be to raise flies and do experiments; I certainly did not have a clue as to the accomplishments of Morgan and Mendel.

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