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The Attic - Lwoff's laboratory
François Jacob Scientist
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Tout se passait dans le couloir. C'est-à-dire que la moindre- Chaque fois qu'un type avait une idée, il la sortait dans le couloir, elle était mise en morceau, hachée menue dans le couloir, rediscutée, etc. Et c'était une époque où avec le phage et les bactéries, le matin, on avait une idée, à deux heures on faisait l'expérience, le lendemain matin, on avait les résultats, donc on pouvait rediscuter les idées etc. C'était extraordinaire. Ça allait- Et alors là on discutait dans le couloir à longueur de journées entre Monod, Wollman, les Américains- parce qu'il y avait beaucoup- Il y avait très peu d'étudiants français. Lwoff et Monod étaient pas connus. C'était avant que Monod soit à la Fac. Ils n'étaient pas connus du public. Et j'étais le plus jeune étudiant et j'avais déjà plus de 30 ans quoi. Et cette ambiance venait en grande partie d'André Lwoff, de sa personnalité ? De tout le monde. Monod aussi était très près de ses types et discutant avec tout le monde. C'était vraiment une ambiance très exceptionelle. En grand partie Lwoff, oui. Et le fait qu'il y avait tant d'Américains qui viennent, c'était lié au prestige qu'avait André Lwoff, à sa reconnaissance internationale ? Oui, c'est le fait que- Ils ont été- Lwoff et Monod sont allés en 1946 à Cold Spring Harbor. Et là, ils ont rencontré tous les types qui travaillaient un peu sur les mêmes thèmes. Et ils ont commencé à inviter des gens. Et à partir de là, il y a eu un flux ininterrompu de gens qui venaient travailler, les Américains. Ce qui fait que vous aviez l'impression d'être dans cette communauté internationale. Oui tout à fait. Je vous dis ce qui était extraordinaire, c'est qu'il n'y avait pas d'étudiants français. Alors que c'étaient des laboratoires reconnus dans le monde entier. Monod est devenu prof de biochimie à la Fac. Il a remplacé, comment s'appelait-il, le vieux prof d'ici qui était à la fois pasteur et- J'ai oublié son nom, ça fait rien. Alors quand Monod est devenu prof à la faculté de chimie, il a commencé à avoir des étudiants. Et Lwoff a eu une chaire de microbiologie. Parce que jusque très tard, il n'y a pas eu de chaire de microbiologie en France. Ça c'était extraordinaire. Même à la faculté de médecine, ça a été très tardif. Et il y a une chaire de microbiologie que Lwoff a eue, je ne sais plus en quelle année, mais enfin très tard.
Everything happened in the corridor. Meaning that every single thing- every time a guy had an idea, he came out with it in the corridor, it would be taken apart, discussed once again etc. And it was a time when with phage and bacteria, we would have an idea in the morning, at two o'clock we would do the experiment, the next morning we had the results, therefore we could discuss the results once again etc. It was exceptional. It went- and all day long we would talk with Monod, Wollman, the Americans- because there were quite a few- there were very few French students. Lwoff and Monod weren't famous. It was before Monod started at the Faculty. People didn't know who they were. And I was the youngest student there and I was already over 30. And this atmosphere mainly came from Andrï Lwoff, from his personality? From everyone. Monod was also very close to these guys and would talk to everyone. It really was a very exceptional atmosphere. Yes, mainly because of Lwoff. And the fact that there were so many Americans that were coming, was it linked to Andrï Lwoff's prestige, to his international recognition? Yes, it's the fact that they were- In 1946, Lwoff and Monod went to Cold Spring Harbor. And there, they met all the guys that were more or less working on the same thing. And they started inviting people. And from that point onwards, there was a continuous flow of people that came to work, the Americans. Which means that you felt part of that international community. Yes, exactly. What was extraordinary, was that there weren't any French students. Even though those were worldwide recognised laboratories. Monod became a biochemistry lecturer at the faculty. He replaced, what was his name, that old lecturer from here who was both pastor and- I've forgotten his name, it doesn't matter. So when Monod became lecturer at the chemistry faculty, he started getting students. And Lwoff got a microbiology chair. Because until very late, there was no microbiology chair in France. That was unbelievable. Even at the Faculty of Medicine it happened very late. There was a microbiology chair that Lwoff got, I don't remember what year, but very late.

François Jacob (1920-2013) was a French biochemist whose work has led to advances in the understanding of the ways in which genes are controlled. In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Jacque Monod and André Lwoff, for his contribution to the field of biochemistry. His later work included studies on gene control and on embryogenesis. Besides the Nobel Prize, he also received the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 1996 and was elected a member of the French Academy in 1996.

Listeners: Michel Morange

Michel Morange is a professor of Biology and Director of the Centre Cavaillès of History and Philosophy of Science at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. After having obtained a Bachelor in biochemistry and two PhDs, one in Biochemistry, the other in History and Philosophy of Science, he went on to join the research unit of Molecular Genetics headed by François Jacob, in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Pasteur Institute, Paris. Together with Olivier Bensaude, he discovered that Heat Shock Proteins are specifically expressed on the onset of the mouse zygotic genome activation. Since then he has been working on the properties of Heat Shock Proteins, their role in aggregation and on the regulation of expression of these proteins during mouse embryogenesis. He is the author of 'A History of Molecular Biology' and 'The Misunderstood Gene'.

Michel Morange est généticien et professeur à L'Université Paris VI ainsi qu'à l'Ecole Normale Supérieure où il dirige le Centre Cavaillès d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences. Après l'obtention d'une license en Biochimie ainsi que de deux Doctorats, l'un en Biochimie, l'autre en Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences, il rejoint le laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire dirigé par le Professeur François Jacob à l'Institut Pasteur. Ses principaux travaux de recherche se sont portés sur l'Histoire de la Biologie au XXème siècle, la naissance et le développement de la Biologie Moléculaire, ses transformations récentes et ses interactions avec les autres disciplines biologiques. Auteur de "La Part des Gènes" ainsi que de "Histoire de la Biologie Moléculaire", il est spécialiste de la structure, de la fonction et de l'ingénerie des protéines.

Duration: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008