Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
called the father of the worm, which I dont think
is a very nice title," says Sydney Brenner, a distinguished
professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. In the early
1960s, Brenner recruited the one-millimeter nematode, Caenorhabditis
elegans, as the ideal model organism
for studying cell differentiation and organ development. In 2002,
he and his worms received a Nobel prize, and his work has made C.
elegans a research standard.
had a long friendship with James Watson
and Francis Crick, and he was one of the first people to see their
model for DNAs structure. His experience working with
them in pre-genome days of biology influenced his thinking about
C. elegans. The new, high-tech analytical tools were distancing
researchers from living things, he thought. "What I wanted
was for people to feel they could come in and actually look at a
real animal," he says. "Francis Crick used to say, Sydney
likes worms because they wriggle and you can watch them wriggle."
Along with doing
genome research, Brenner advises the government of Singapore on
how to conduct research. Hes a firm believer that learning
to think about scientific problems can help people to think about
other kinds of problems as well. "I think science is the way
to solve problems. Its the best way we know. Magic doesnt
work. Prayer doesnt work too well, either."
Whats so good about the scientific approach? According to
Brenner, it gets to the bottom of things. "I think the habit
of truth is very important," he says. "If, as a scientist,
youre holding onto a wrong view, thats it. Youre
doing the wrong thing, and youve got to learn to throw your
pet ideas away however much you love them. Youve got to bring
them out and kill them on the table, and get on with the truth."
||"As science progresses and
gets more and more technical, you begin to lose that contact
with the biological world. You are, rather, looking at readings
on a dial."
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