Helmholtz Gemeinschaft


Thinking about science : Max Delbrueck and the origins of molecular biology

Item Type:Book
Title:Thinking about science : Max Delbrueck and the origins of molecular biology
Creators Name:Fischer, E.P. and Lipson, C.
Abstract:Despite its recent dazzling successes, molecular biology is an infant among mature sciences. The story of its rise to prominence began in the 1930s when a pioneering group of researchers, mostly from theoretical physics, fashioned a line of genetic inquiry using viruses called phage. At their helm was a man known simply as Max, the former student of Niels Bohr who, together with others, laid the groundwork for a molecular revolution in the life sciences that has forever changed the way biologists think. For the many students and researchers who had contact with his phage group at Cold Spring Harbor in the 1950s and 1960s, Max was the Socrates of biology. Begun in conversations with Max Delbrueck at Cal Tech and completed after his death in 1981, Thinking About Science is more than a celebration of a life in science that spanned three quarters of a century, two continents, and multiple scientific disciplines. It is a book that captures Delbrueck's delight in the kind of theoretical work that drove early experiments in molecular biology. It is also an important historical document involving many of the most influential physicists and biologists of our time. While the brilliant success of phage won Delbrueck and co-workers the Nobel Prize in 1969, it did not dampen Max's enthusiasm for other questions; he was constantly on the lookout for a better organism to reveal life's secrets. As molecular genetics prospered into a powerful new industry, Max abandoned phage to ask how organisms sense their environments, a pursuit that led him down a new path to a lowly fungus subsequently dubbed the phage of vision. In the documents of a restless intellectual life - the letters, speeches, publications, and recollections of other scientists - the authors protray Delbrueck as the German romantic in search of the Holy Grail. Delbrueck's life was a journey of great variety and range. Beginning in Germany as a student of astronomy, he contributed to the understanding of the atomic nucleus, applied quantum mechanics to genetics, founded molecular biology, studied sensory behavior, and sought epistemological insights from science. Few scientists command as much ground or draw so ardent a following as did Max Delbrueck. Thinking About Science is a tribute to him and to the power of personality to direct and shape the couse of human events even in the most dispassionate of endeavors, the pursuit of scientific truth.
Keywords:Max Delbrueck, Molecular Biology, History
Publisher:W.W. Norton & Company
Number of Pages:334

Repository Staff Only: item control page

Open Access
MDC Library