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.
Kinkead-Weekes,” Times Literary Supplement 4873 (1996): 3–4. PART TWO: KONOPKA’S LAW 1 “Things are always best”: Pascal, Lettres Provinciales; quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 14th ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1968), 363. CHAPTER SIX: FIRST LIGHT 1 “I’ll tell you how the Sun rose”: Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960), 150. “Everyone who ever lived”: Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2 (New York:
a series of letters, and those letters might carry the secret of life. “We seem to arrive at the ridiculous conclusion that the clue to the understanding of life is that it is based on a pure mechanism,” Schrödinger wrote. That is, the secret of life is nothing more than a kind of clockwork. “But please, do not accuse me of calling the chromosome fibres just the cogs of the organic machine,” he wrote. Any cog that does what these cogs can do is “not of coarse human make”; it must be “the finest
lessons. They were. Not only were the flies learning, they were learning fast, as Benzer enjoyed pointing out chauvinistically. In one standard laboratory test of learning, an experimenter rings a bell and then blows a puff of air at a rabbit’s eye to make it blink. The rabbit learns to blink before the puff of air, but that takes about eighty lessons. Quinn’s flies learned in three. Once Quinn happened to notice that his flies avoided walking on a spill of dry powder—quinine sulfate. So
Benzer his bar mitzvah microscope), spent years at Coney Island snapping pictures with a second-hand Ciroflex. The first day he brought the camera to the beach, he took a photograph that was included by Edward Steichen in the “Family of Man” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. So Benzer’s first years in Church Hall, from the first run of his first countercurrent machine, were one long confirmation of Konopka’s Law. Benzer had hardly started his study of genes and behavior before he and his
chief drosophilist at Exelexis explained to investors recently that it is astonishing how much one can learn from flies at the level of the genes: until the mapping projects began, he said, drosophilists had never realized “that we were looking at little people with wings.” This was one of the great developments of late-twentieth-century biology. It means that every biologist studying every genome can now feel more or less at home in all the rest. And Seymour cherishes a sentimental feeling for