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Completing work on the structure of gamma globulin molecule


A visit from Leo Szilard
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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I remember being visited, of all things, by Leo Szilard – the great physicist, one of the brilliant minds of the time – and I remember his position... speak about Pauling, it was the same kind of thing. He came in surrounded by three or four admirers and he said, 'All right, I have 18 minutes; what's the problem?' And Joe Gally, as a matter of fact, said, 'Well, we're working on this quenching relationship.' There's a certain equation called the Stern-Volmer equation and we were having trouble solving it under a particular set of conditions and here was this brilliant physicist, so we proffered, and he pushed it aside and he said, 'That is not... that's not interesting; I'm interested in dirty things – tell me about antibodies.' And his... his attention span was not great, so in the middle of it he said, 'All right, what about this fluorescence?' And Joe proffered this thing again. He said, 'I don't need that', and Joe said, 'If you don't want to listen to the facts, there's no use in talking', and he walked away. And Szilard said to me, 'Who was that?' And I said, 'My first-year graduate student.' He was sort of dumbfounded.

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: Linus Pauling, Leo Szilard, Joe Gally

Duration: 1 minute, 1 second

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008