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Getting into the Pasteur Institute


Georges Canguilhem
François Jacob Scientist
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I didn't know Georges Canguilhem, I met him then. And the first time I saw him, he told me something extraordinary. He said, 'If I'd met you earlier I would have written less rubbish'. It was very surprising. Because he wrote a lot of rubbish about genetics, among other things. I don't know if you...

[Q] Yes, yes, I read it. At one point he even came very close to Lysenkoism.

Yes, he didn't understand any of it, absolutely nothing. And I found it touching that he would say that to me. Because, nonetheless, he is a very successful man, who educated generations of philosophers, and who is a very likeable and good guy. He was a member of the Resistance. He was a very good guy.

[Q] It was rather in his favour...

Absolutely in his favour, but it amazed me, if you like. It surprised me that a guy of his stature and calibre would say that to me.

Georges Canguilhem, je ne le connaissais pas, j'ai fait sa connaissance à ce moment-là. Et la première fois que je l'ai vu, il m'a dit quelque chose d'extraordinaire. Il m'a dit- Si je vous avais connu plus tôt, j'aurais écrit moins de conneries. Ça c'était étonnant. Parce qu'il avait écrit beaucoup de conneries sur la génétique, entre autres. Je sais pas si vous avez...

[Q] Si, si j'ai lu. Il a même un peu frôlé le Lysenkisme à certains moments.

Oui, il n'y comprenait rien, strictement rien. Et j'ai trouvé touchant qu'il me dise ça. Parce que c'était quand même un monsieur très arrivé, qui a éduqué des générations de philosophes, et qui était un type très sympathique et très bien. Un résistant. Il était très bien.

[Q] C'est plutôt en sa faveur...

Tout à fait en sa faveur, mais ça m'a épaté, si vous voulez. Ça m'a étonné qu'un type de sa stature et de son calibre dise ça.

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: genetics, Resistance

Duration: 58 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008