Thursday, June 19, 2008

This Week's Citation Classic

This week's citation classic is "The Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses" in honor of Gunther Stent, who recently passed away. Stent was one of the unsung heroes of the molecular biology revolution and member of the "phage group" and the RNA Tie Club. Although he was not credited with any major discoveries in molecular biology, "Gunther was part of the intellectual glue that kept this small band of pioneers together".

As one of Max Delbruck's students, he was asked "'Do you want to work on phage?' 'Yes sir,' Stent replied, 'that’s exactly what I want to work on, but could you refresh my memory as to just what phage is actually all about?'"

His classic text on bacteriophages is still frequently consulted in my laboratory and has been a standard reference for phage workers since the 60's.

Stent was remarkably diverse. After receiving his PhD in physical chemistry, he switched to phage biology. Then as the 60's came to a close, Stent became "bored with molecular biology". He switched to studying neurobiology with leeches as model organisms. Later Stent focused on the history and philosophy of science, publishing important works such as "Paradoxes of Free Will".

Stent explained his frequent career changes, "The problem is that I get bored. I see something new, and it becomes exciting for me, so I move on."

His autobiography is "Nazis, Women and Molecular Biology: Memoirs of a Lucky Self-Hater."


  1. With a title like that, who can resist? Definitely on the to-read list. . .

  2. It's probably better than "Genes, Girls and Gamow" ;)