Biologists: who counts and who doesn’t

M Robertson in the Journal of Biology:

While there can be no question about the contribution of mathematics to many fields in biology, there is a curious tendency on the part of numerate biologists (often immigrants from the physical sciences) to insist that they are an essential part of the equipment of a biologist and none should be without it. This seems, on the evidence, extreme.

In short, the account of the segmentation clock in our review this month is an illustration of emergent properties at two levels, at one of which – the level of devices – no great mathematical sophistication is required; while at the other, where devices are engaged in complex systems, mathematics may be mandatory.

There seems no need for the kind of snobbery displayed (it is said) by the highly quantitative founding biologists at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, in whose early history exphysicists played a crucial part, and who are alleged to have referred to their nearby colleagues at Woods Hole as biologists ‘who don’t count’.

Take a look!


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