Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore's Life in Science by Shane Crotty

Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore's Life in Science by Shane Crotty

By Shane Crotty

In Fifties, Watson and Crick tested a so-called "central dogma" in molecular biology: DNA makes RNA, and RNA makes proteins. even if, round 1970, teams in US discovered the 1st exception of this rule. David Baltimore's and Howard Temin's groups stumbled on that RNA makes DNA! This unforeseen discovering of theirs in cancer-causing RNA viruses not just made this box up-side down, but in addition opened a brand new street known as "recombinant expertise" a decade later, for cloning genes and transfering any gene from one species to a different virtually at will. for that reason, Baltimore and Temin shared a Nobel prize in 1975. Baltimore's greatness prolonged past the technology. He considered this international in an "unconventional" demeanour. He married a highly-talented chinese language biologist, and protested opposed to the hugely arguable US wars in Vietnam and Iraq. He has a good knowledge which lets examine from this well-written biography.

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Sample text

Classes at Swarthmore weren’t di‹cult for David, but when he began taking biology classes, he ran up against the legend of Howard Temin. Temin had become known as a scholar of herculean stature in the biology department even before he graduated, just a year before Baltimore’s arrival. For the first time in his life, David was in the shadow of another student. In his 1994 memorial article on Temin, he wrote: “Temin’s academic feats were central myths of the biology department. ” The quintessential Temin story, the one that Baltimore himself would retell for forty years, was the story of his honors exam.

No classes focused his passion for molecular biology; the field was so new that no textbook was available. With only half a dozen professors in the department, Baltimore felt trapped. Searching for knowledge in experimental biology and molecular biology, Baltimore took the train out to the libraries of nearby Haverford and Bryn Mawr on weekends. At a wooden table beside the science periodicals shelves, he read through a random selection of biology journals. Because the intensely technical jargon of the journals was di‹cult to read, Baltimore soon sought out the more comprehensive, less esoteric review articles instead.

No one had imagined that the precious molecule of heredity could be so sensitive to physical abuse, but that explained the misleading results of the Levinthal lab’s previous experiments: when they used syringes to handle the DNA, they broke the chromosomes into little pieces. This time around, Levinthal was committed to handling the DNA gently. Quick results were imperative, because other labs were racing for the same 36 apprenticeships goal, and modern biology is littered with stories of also-rans.

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