Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior
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"A fascinating history--. Literate and authoritative--.Marvelously exciting." --The New York Times Book Review
Jonathan Weiner, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Beak of the Finch, brings his brilliant reporting skills to the story of Seymour Benzer, the Brooklyn-born maverick scientist whose study of genetics and experiments with fruit fly genes has helped revolutionize or knowledge of the connections between DNA and behavior both animal and human.
How much of our fate is decided before we are born? Which of our characteristics is inscribed in our DNA? Weiner brings us into Benzer's Fly Rooms at the California Institute of Technology, where Benzer, and his asssociates are in the process of finding answers, often astonishing ones, to these questions. Part biography, part thrilling scientific detective story, Time, Love, Memory forcefully demonstrates how Benzer's studies are changing our world view--and even our lives.
laboratory stock, but here and there a half-pint milk bottle with heavy scratched glass and antique advertising (“5 cents—Just a Little Better”) stoppered with a foam-rubber cork. These tubes and bottles hold a sampling of the hundreds of mutants that Benzer and his students, his students’ students, and his competitors have engineered. The mutants are fruit flies, and their mutations have changed their behavior. One of them is timeless, a clock mutant. In a windowless room like this one, the fly
from white. CHAPTER THREE What Is Life? With all his amateurish fumbling, Martin had one characteristic without which there can be no science: a wide-ranging, sniffing, snuffling, undignified, unself-dramatizing curiosity, and it drove him on. —SINCLAIR LEWIS, Arrowsmith MORGAN HAD ENTERED the field as a critic, a gadfly, and he was never as comfortable with the theory of the gene as those who came after him. Unlike Sturtevant, Calvin Bridges, Curt Stern, and many of his other
his manuscript: “You must have drunk a triple highball before writing this. This is going to be offensive to a lot of people that I respect.” Even assuming that Benzer’s reasoning was correct, the chance of crossing two defective r parents and producing normal r children was astronomically low, on the order of one in a billion. At least, that was what his calculations suggested: he would have to breed enough virus to detect one-in-a-billion events reliably. But there would be more than enough
damaged. In other words, he could use the same method that Morgan’s Raiders had used to map the locations of genes on chromosomes to map the relative positions of mutations inside the rII region. He was making the first detailed map of the interior of a gene. In the novel, when Arrowsmith discovers bacteriophage, he leaves his laboratory dawn after dawn, “eyes blood-glaring and set,” and after a few weeks goes slightly mad with tension and exhaustion, “obsessed by the desire to spell backward all
twice are in Tube Two. The flies that have chosen the light once are in Tube One. The fly that has never chosen the light is still in Tube Zero, moving erratically in the half-dark. To human eyes it looks like a troubled fly. “Now we’ll give them another chance.” Benzer rocks and slides his gadget: the same operation, the same fifteen-second wait. Then again and again: knock, knock, knock. Each time, most of the flies move toward the light. “OK, there we are,” Benzer says at last, switching on