Seymour Benzer: RIP

Bora calls him one of the greatest biologists of 20th century (and, links to other tributes as well as to a paper and a video of his). From one of the links that Wiki provides I understand that he belongs to that group of physicists who turned to biology under the influence of Schroedinger’s What is life. Another link that Wiki provides is to an interview with Jonathan Weiner, and here is the first question and answer:

Q: You call Seymour Benzer “one of the unsung heroes of our time.” How has this man (responsible for such a big and important series of experiments in biology) managed to stay virtually unknown while names like Watson and Crick have become instantly recognizable?

A: There’s no question that Benzer is one of the great scientists of the century, and it’s surprising that outside of his own field, no one knows his name. I should say, outside his fields, because he’s a maverick scientist who keeps jumping around. His work as a physicist in the 1940s helped start the revolution in electronics, which of course is the single biggest industry in the U.S. today. His work as a biologist in the ’50s helped start the revolution called molecular biology, which is probably the most exciting and fast-moving field in science today. Benzer helped start that revolution by making the first detailed map of the interior of a gene. And a study he started in the ’60s is now central to the study of genes and behavior, which may be one of the most exciting and disturbing scientific fields in the twenty-first century. More than anyone else, Benzer started the effort to trace the actual, physical links from gene to behavior–he called it the genetic dissection of behavior.

Why isn’t he better known? Because he doesn’t want to be. Unlike most of his friends, he’s never written his memoirs, never written a book, hates to talk to reporters. He says he’s too busy. He has too much fun in the lab.

In the light of the above question and answer, I guess, it is no wonder that I have not heard of him till today. Any case, from the interview, I see that Weiner’s book Time, Love, Memory is about Benzer and his work. May be I will get that book sometime and read it.


3 Responses to “Seymour Benzer: RIP”

  1. Bora Zivkovic Says:

    Yes, read the book!

  2. Guru Says:

    Dear Bora,

    Time, Love, Memory just jumped to the top of my To-be-read list.


  3. Time, love, memory « Entertaining Research Says:

    […] have been mentioned at Pharyngula). Then, while reading one of the obituaries of Seymour Benzer, I learnt about the book (and, it came with strong recommendations). I managed to check the book and read it in the last few […]

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