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Presenting the entire model


How messenger RNA was welcomed
François Jacob Scientist
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It was incredible. I know that, in Pasadena... I got there, I did three seminars. I did a seminar at Gunther Stent's who was at Berkeley. Afterwards I did a seminar at... I don't remember where and one when we got there at Max Delbrück's. And when I told Max Delbrück about the hypothesis of a thing that at the time we called x, he threw his arms in the air, and left... that's how he was, he left, he couldn't handle that much!

[Q] And what couldn't he handle? An idea that didn't fall within the scope?

Yes, yes. An idea that seemed completely silly to him, one that came out from who knows where, that seemed completely useless. He really couldn't tolerate it. He was awful in seminars, he was unbelievable, sometimes he read his paper.

[Q] Which isn't really encouraging... but once the experiment was done, it's also that year that you are going to publish the big article in the 'Journal of Molecular Biology'. At the time, I mean the results were accepted... Everything worked together. Yes, and did everyone accept it?

Yes. It was very quick. For two weeks people threw their hands up, but in the end everyone accepted it. Not only did everyone accept it but everyone was saying... that's typical... everyone was saying... I've already done it.

[Q] In particular, the Brachet group in Brussels who said, 'The messenger RNA, we described it a long time ago'. Them among others, yes.

Ça à été formidable. A Pasadena, moi je sais... Je suis arrivé, j'ai fait trois séminaires. J'ai fait un séminaire chez Gunther Stent qui était à Berkeley. Ensuite, j'ai fait un séminaire chez... Je ne sais plus où et puis chez Max Delbrück quand on est arrivé. Et Max Delbrück, quand je lui ai sorti cette hypothèse d'un truc qu'on appelait x à ce moment-là, il a levé les bras au ciel, il est sorti... Lui il était comme ça, il est parti, il ne pouvait pas en supporter autant!

[Q] Et qu'est-ce qu'il ne supportait pas? Une idée qui sortait du cadre?

Oui, oui, une idée qui lui paraissait complètement stupide, qui venait d'on ne sait pas où, qui paraissait complètement inutile. Il supportait très mal. Ah il était terrible dans les séminaires, il était incroyable, il lisait son journal de temps en temps.

[Q] Ce qui est assez peu encourageant... Mais une fois que cette expérience a été faite, c'est aussi l'année où vous allez publier le gros article dans 'Journal of Molecular Biology'. A ce moment-là, je veux dire les résultats étaient acceptés... Tout tenait ensemble. Oui, et tout le monde l'a accepté là?

Oui. Ça a été très vite. Les gens pendant 15 jours ont levé les bras au ciel, mais après tout le monde l'a accepté. Non seulement, tout le monde l'a accepté, mais tout le monde disait... Ça c'est classique... tout le monde disait... Je l'ai déjà fait.

[Q] En particulier je crois, le groupe de Brachet à Bruxelles a dit, 'Mais l'ARN messager, on l'avait déjà décrit depuis longtemps'. Eux entre autres, oui.

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 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.

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'.

Tags: Berkeley, Journal of Molecular Biology, Max Delbrück

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008