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Getting into science


Learning how to pick locks
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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My father had this remarkable collection of books and he didn't read them – he was too busy being a practitioner and helping people in real situations – but it was a huge collection of books. He had a chap, not related, called Sam Edelman who was a bibliophile and polyglot sort of figure who collected these books for him, and your comment about learning how to pick locks was the fact that the books that had a slightly more racy flavor were under glass and locked in a... in a compartment, and I remember sometimes taking care of my father's office and figuring: how can I get into that without being discovered. And what I discovered in fact was a book called The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, who was in the court of Nero, and it had some racy illustrations, and so far I've embarrassed myself by the tale, but that's what happened.

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: The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, Sam Edelman

Duration: 56 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008