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The technicians of the Pasteur Institute


Personalies at the Pasteur Institute
François Jacob Scientist
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But nevertheless, in 1960, Mr Trefouel continued to run the Pasteur Institute, but in a slightly lax way. I mean that a serious readjustment was needed- Yes, because he had absolutely no idea about modern biology. He was still doing biochemistry. He did some very good things. He focussed on sulfonamides and things like that, which was very good. But biology isn't limited to sulfonamides. As I was telling you earlier, when we went to see him, and we brought him a note- he would say- It's like sulfonamides! With Elie, we both struggled to keep a straight face. We would get there together with our note, because we did them together, and he'd say- it's fantastic, it's like sulfonamides. And then, we couldn't look at each other! So as not to burst out laughing- Absolutely. And how did these three people go about with the revolution? So the revolution was- I don't remember the details, but- Was there a big personality change at the institute? We know that Monod is going to arrive in 1971. Yes, but that's later on. There mainly was, well there mainly were those three guys. I don't remember the details. The three who wanted to change the institute. And I had been assigned the task of going to see Lwoff to ask him if he would be director. So I went to see Lwoff, I didn't have to say a single thing, he was director, he considered himself to be director. And that was also a problem. And in the end he didn't become director, so he left, he went to the Curie Institute. He'd been a little shocked not be appointed director? Yes, he didn't appreciate it. And why? Because he had opponents? Because he had- he was an absolutely wonderful person, but he had his friends and his enemies. He would do anything for his friends, and everything against his enemies. And so, he didn't hesitate going around the institute saying- those guys need to thrown out! When he was about to become director. So people didn't really appreciate it.
Mais par contre, en 60, donc Monsieur Trefouel continuait à diriger l'Institut Pasteur, mais de manière un peu laxiste. Enfin je veux dire il y avait besoin d'un serieux ménage- Oui, parce qu'il n'avait absolument aucune idée de la biologie moderne. Il faisait toujours de la biochimie- Il a fait des trucs très bien. Il s'est occupé de sulfamides et de trucs comme ça, ce qui était très bien. Mais enfin la biologie ne se limitait pas aux sulfamides. Je vous disais tout à l'heure, quand on allait le voir, qu'on lui apportait une note sur- Il disait- C'est comme les sulfamides ! Avec Elie, on avait un mal fou à se tenir. On arrivait tous les deux avec notre note, parce qu'on faisait des notes ensemble, et il disait- C'est formidable, c'est comme les sulfamides. Et alors là, il ne fallait pas qu'on se regarde ! Pour ne pas éclater de rire- Absolument. Et comment s'est passé la révolution par ces trois personnes ? Alors la révolution ça a été- Les détails, je ne sais plus, mais- Il y a eu un fort changement de personnalités à l'institut ? On sait que Monod va arriver en 71. Oui, mais ça c'est après. Il y a eu surtout, enfin il y avait surtout les trois là. Je ne me souviens plus des détails. Les trois qui voulaient changer l'institut. Et moi, j'ai été chargé d'aller voir Lwoff et de lui demander s'il accepterait d'être directeur. Alors je suis allé voir Lwoff, je n'ai même pas eu la peine d'ouvrir la bouche, il était directeur, il se considérait comme étant le directeur. Et ça, c'était un problème ça aussi. Et finalement, comme il n'a pas été directeur, il est parti. Il est parti à l'Institut Curie. Ça l'avait un peu choqué de ne pas être nommé directeur ? Oui, il n'a pas aimé. Et pourquoi ? Parce qu'il y avait des opposants ? Parce que il avait- C'était un personnage absolument merveilleux, mais il avait ses amis et ses ennemis. Ses amis, il faisait n'importe quoi pour eux. Ses ennemis, il faisait n'importe quoi contre eux. Et alors il n'hésitait pas à se promener dans l'Institut Pasteur en disant- Ceux-là, il faut les foutre dehors, au moment où il allait être directeur. Alors les gens n'appréciaient pas tellement.

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, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008