Friday, September 7, 2007

This Week's Citation Classic

This week's citation classic is Gunther Stent's Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses (WH Freeman, 1963). Stent is a polymath, currently a professor emeriti in the MCB Department at UC: Berkeley. He started his career by obtaining a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1948 from the University of Illinois, then joined Max Delbruck's lab at the California Institute of Technology, before joining the University of California, Berkeley faculty as an Assistant Research Biochemist in 1953. Stent soon left his mark on fields as diverse as bacterial genetics to DNA structure to neurobiology and even the history and philosophy of science. His published books include, the classic, Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology (1966, 1992), the textbook, Molecular Genetics: An Introductory Narrative, The Neurobiology of the Leech (1981), Mind from Matter: An Evolutionary Epistemology (1986), and his autobiography, Nazis, Women and Molecular Biology.

Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses
is part textbook, part memoir, part history, part lab manual and thoroughly entertaining. I still use it and cite it in my own work. Dedicated to Max Delbruck, it opens with a stunning photo of the DNA of phage T2 liberated from the phage's capsid. It proceeds then to discuss phage history, morphology, growth, life cycle, genetics and theory. Anyone with even a cursory interest in phage cannot help being educated and entertained by this book.

Here is a poetic tribute to Gunther Stent on the occasion of his 80th Birthday.

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