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Stein and Moore and beginning work on gamma globulin


Lunch at the Rockefeller Institute
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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Every day you had lunch and every lunch consisted of your going to any table you wish in the dining room where you were served, believe it or not – you didn't just do it cafeteria style, you were served in high style – and you had the opportunity to mix with very great scientists. And it wasn't the question of parts of departments; there was no such thing. You mixed accordingly. And that influence was perhaps larger than anything a single mentor could have done. It was an opportunity to see all the different ways that these remarkable scientists thought, independent of their disciplines, although of course they were ensconced in them.

[Q] Who were they?

Well, let me give you one example of the kind of tone that could be established. I don't know if you remember the name of George Kotzias – he's no longer with us – but Kotzias was the man who... very vigorous Greek, who was in hospital with me at the Rockefeller. I was an assistant physician at the time, he was an associate; and he was a kind of flamboyant figure, very assertive but very imaginative. And one day we went for lunch, not together, but we landed up at the same table, and at this table was René Dubos, perhaps the greatest high priest of microbiology and virology of the time and a remarkably broad scholar, and a little man named Max Theiler who got a Nobel prize in plant biology... in virology, as a matter of fact. And George joined us; I was at the table, and he sat between Theiler and... and Dubos, and he said at one point in the conversation, 'Max, how many papers have you got?' And, if I remember correctly, Theiler said something like, 'Seven.' And he turned to René Dubos, and he said, 'René, how many papers you got?' And Dubos said, 'Mmm, maybe 400.' He said, 'René, can I ask you a question?' He said, 'Yeah, what?' He said, 'How come you ain't got the Nobel Prize?' And there was that degree of exchange, of both humor and mordancy, and that had an immense effect – that one and a half to two hours was the most important part of the day.

US biologist Gerald Edelman (1929-2014) successfully constructed a precise model of an antibody, a protein used by the body to neutralise harmful bacteria or viruses and it was this work that won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 jointly with Rodney R Porter. He then turned his attention to neuroscience, focusing on neural Darwinism, an influential theory of brain function.

Listeners: Ralph J. Greenspan

Dr. Greenspan has worked on the genetic and neurobiological basis of behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) almost since the inception of the field, studying with one of its founders, Jeffery Hall, at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in 1979. He subsequently taught and conducted research at Princeton University and New York University where he ran the W.M. Keck Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, relocating to San Diego in 1997 to become a Senior Fellow in Experimental Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Greenspan’s research accomplishments include studies of physiological and behavioral consequences of mutations in a neurotransmitter system affecting one of the brain's principal chemical signals, studies making highly localized genetic alterations in the nervous system to alter behavior, molecular identification of genes causing naturally occurring variation in behavior, and the demonstration that the fly has sleep-like and attention-like behavior similar to that of mammals. Dr. Greenspan has been awarded fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Searle Scholars Program, the McKnight Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Klingenstein Foundation. In addition to authoring research papers in journals such as "Science", "Nature", "Cell", "Neuron", and "Current Biology", he is also author of an article on the subject of genes and behavior for "Scientific American" and several books, including "Genetic Neurobiology" with Jeffrey Hall and William Harris, "Flexibility and Constraint in Behavioral Systems" with C.P. Kyriacou, and "Fly Pushing: The Theory and Practice of Drosophila Genetics", which has become a standard work in all fruit fly laboratories.

Tags: Rockefeller Institute, George Kotzias, René Dubos, Max Theiler

Duration: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008