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Getting drafted and ending up in Paris


Diagnosis: Then and now
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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The great scientist Fritz Lipmann, for example, was on the wards, and he didn't know much medicine – he got his degree out in Germany. And there was also Paul Zamecnick, who was one of the most important people in the early business about translation, you remember, in protein synthesis. And he would come on the wards and be the... the so-called visit. Well, in fact the... the residents there were formidable. They were really great at diagnosis and when they weren't, they called a man named Paul Kranes who came, lugubrious in his merits, and he walked into the room, saw the patient, came out in maybe a half an hour later and said, 'Gentlemen, it is a case of Pelizaeus Merzbacher Syndrome', and you'd say, 'What?' And he almost always would be right – raised your averages amazingly. There was this tremendous sense of dedication to the person at the same time for high scholarship. Of course things have changed a lot, right? Today you have some kid who may not even come near Paul Kranes's aspect as a clinician but he writes a... a little slip for a scanner and he sends the... the slip in and the person gets a scanning and the diagnosis rate is even better than Paul's. Well, yeah, there's only one trouble with that: it costs billions and billions of dollars and it's no place to be sick. So we have this curious contrast between how it used to be... which is easy to reflect on in a positive mode when you're in the position I am in now. I really don't know what to say about it except there is a contrast.

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: Fritz Lipmann, Paul Zamecnick, Paul Kranes

Duration: 1 minute, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008