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The gene protein problem


The 'old days' experiments
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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We came to Cal Tech, and that again brought me in direct contact with the Phage Group – the Phage Church – at which I met many people there that had become… you know, had become… had become lifelong friends. And I gave a talk on Seymour's work there again, and spent a few days there, and then went up to Berkeley to see the Virus Lab where I actually started to work with Gunther Stent. And what was so interesting in those times was you could arrive at a lab and do an experiment. You know, you didn't have to write a lot of paper. So the thing we got interested in were protoplasts. I wanted to do work on phage. Now, at that stage… and… and the whole idea that you could get the inside of a bacterium, a protoplast, and the whole idea of a little something less than the cell, therefore of great interest was something that… of course, now it's just ridiculous, because what we just took off was the hard carbohydrate cell wall and got to grips with the cell. But the experiment we did there was to show that protoplasts could continue to produce phage. And that actually started off a whole line of work on protoplast biology which people thought were the first steps to a sub-cellular system, which we didn't have, that would do complex things and... on which you could do biochemistry.

South African Sydney Brenner (1927-2019) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. His joint discovery of messenger RNA, and, in more recent years, his development of gene cloning, sequencing and manipulation techniques along with his work for the Human Genome Project have led to his standing as a pioneer in the field of genetics and molecular biology.

Listeners: Lewis Wolpert

Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London. His research interests are in the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He was originally trained as a civil engineer in South Africa but changed to research in cell biology at King's College, London in 1955. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980 and awarded the CBE in 1990. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. He has presented science on both radio and TV and for five years was Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science.



Listen to Lewis Wolpert at Web of Stories



Tags: Cal Tech, California Institute of Technology, Berkeley, Virus Lab, Gunther Stent, Seymour Benzer

Duration: 1 minute, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 24 January 2008