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Working with Jacques Monod and Georges Cohen
François Jacob Scientist
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Oui, la collaboration avec Monod ça a vraiment été quelque chose de très étonnant. Parce que on se voyait tous les jours, au moins deux heures par jour devant un tableau noir, à discuter sans arrêt. Et on discutait à toute vitesse, parce que comme on était habitué à tous les petits détails de gènes, de mutants, etc., il était très difficile pour un type de suivre. Je me souviens de Georges Cohen par exemple, qui n'était pas loin et qui s'intéressait à tout ça. De temps en temps, il arrivait et il avait beaucoup de mal à suivre parce qu'on parlait très vite et à demi-mot.

[Q] Pourtant, c'était le système tryptophane qui apportait encore des arguments en faveur du même modèle.

Oui. Il y avait trois arguments pour: le phage, le lactose et le tryptophane... Et le tryptophane étudié par Georges Cohen. Et moi. Parce que c'est moi qui ai eu l'idée de dire à Georges Cohen: il faut chercher le gène régulateur et voir comment il marche.

Yes, working with Monod really was incredible. Because we saw each other everyday, at least two hours a day in front of the blackboard, talking non-stop. And we discussed things at full speed, because we were used to all the little details of genes, of mutants, etc., it was very difficult for someone else to keep up. I remember Georges Cohen for instance, who wasn't very far and was interested in all that. Once in a while he would come over and he would have great difficulty keeping up because we spoke too fast and without spelling things out.

[Q] Nevertheless, it was the tryptophan system which was still bringing forward arguments in favour of the same model.

Yes. There were three arguments in favour: phage, lactose and tryptophan. And tryptophan was being studied by Georges Cohen. And myself. Because I was the one who had the idea of telling Georges Cohen... you need to look for the regulatory gene and see how it works.

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.

Tags: Georges Cohen, Jacques Monod

Duration: 54 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008