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The difference between my theory and classical genetic theory


Extending Darwinian theory to molecules
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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[Q] You are known of having extended the Darwinian theory to molecules where it really becomes a physical theory. Would you please be so kind and go into that a little further, into that part of the theory?

Yes, and I should immediately say that Peter Schuster was in that business right from the beginning.

[Q] Beginning is what year, about?

Oh, beginning in the end of the '60s, I think 1968, 1969. At that time he was with me as a post-doctoral fellow and he was more interested in theory of hydrogen bonded systems and he was interested of course in relaxation measurements in hydrogen bonded systems. But being a good theoretician, he became interested in my ideas on evolution, and he offered me to do computer simulations.  And I remember in these early days we always... guessing in the morning what will be the outcome of an evolutionary problem and, well, who was right? The computer always was right, of course. But also John McCaskill, who came somewhat later then into the field, but he came from Oxford, he's Australian, and he did very important work also in theory.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: hydrogen bonded systems, relaxation measurements, Peter K Schuster, Charles Robert Darwin, John S McCaskill

Duration: 1 minute, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008