Category Archives: history of science

Sydney Brenner: A revolutionary biologist. New BBC radio programme

by Matthew Cobb Earlier this year I went to Singapore to record a series of interviews with Sydney Brenner, one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century. This was part of a Sydney Brenner Research Fellowship from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which I was awarded to study how Brenner and Francis Crick collaborated. I […]

Now they want to demonize Francis Crick

The Statue-Removing Squad has finally jumped the shark. I can sympathize—and even agree—with people’s desire to remove statues honoring the Confederacy, though I quail a bit at taking down statues of Robert E. Lee, who did fight for the Union before secession. But now, it seems, everyone from the past who uttered an offensive remark, […]

Happy 60th birthday, central dogma!

JAC Intro: Today is precisely 60 years after Francis Crick, more of a genius than you realize, gave a famous lecture in London laying out what’s been called the “Central Dogma” of biology—about how information gets from genes to proteins via RNA intermediates. I asked Matthew, who wrote a very nice book  about the history […]

Steve Gould’s last class

Matthew found this on his Twi**er feed, which recounts Stephen Jay Gould’s last classes at Harvard before he died of cancer on May 20, 2002 at age 60.  As you may know, Gould had survived peritoneal mesothelioma, an almost invariably fatal form of cancer that struck him in 1982. Amazingly, he beat the odds on […]

Carl Zimmer: Science journalism in the Age of Trump

After Trump’s election, when we began to wonder what an authoritarian regime could do to science, my first thought was the story of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko—a tale known to all geneticists. Born to a peasant family in 1898, Lysenko eventually became an agronomist and, in 1928, reported a series of experiments in which he claimed […]

A book on Darwin damned in New Scientist

A while back, several readers sent me an Evening Standard article by A. N. Wilson, “It’s time Charles Darwin was exposed for the fraud he was.” That turned out to be a precis of a new book by Wilson, Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker (out on September 7 in the UK, December in the U.S.). Of course the […]

Google Doodle: The fantastic Antikythera Mechanism

Today’s Google Doodle in most of the world portrays the Antikythera Mechanism, as today is the 115th anniversary of its discovery, at least according to Google.  Wikipedia, however, says it was recovered on August 4, 1901, so figure it out yourself. It wasn’t even studied until 1951, as other artifacts from the wreck were deemed more […]

Free article on the Scopes Trial

Scientific American recently made its January, 1959 issue available free to the public, but you have to go through a complex procedure of registering, ordering it for $ 0.00, and then downloading it when your order is accepted. Reader Barry has done the work for us and sent me a pdf of the issue. The […]

“Galton must fall” campaign at University College London: Should his name be erased because he advocated eugenics?

When I visited London, I’d spend a lot of time at University College London’s (UCL’s) Galton Laboratory, which housed genetics and evolutionary biology as well as my good friend and host Steve Jones. It was an ugly building near King’s Cross station, but it my scientific home away from home in England, and it was in […]

Darwin’s only selfie

Darwin scholar John van Whye put this on Facebook: it’s Darwin’s only known depiction of himself. John’s notes: Darwin sketched himself as this little stick man on the island of St Helena in July 1836 as the Beagle was sailing home. The sketch represents the strong winds blowing up the sea cliffs while the air on […]