Chemistry & Physics

Brenner, Sydney | Loose Ends from Current Biology

  • First edition, first impression. Presentation copy from the author, Nobel Prize-winning biologist Sydney Brenner (1927-2019), to his wife, May, inscribed on the front free endpaper, “To May, from Sarha October 1997”. Sarha was presumably a nickname. Brenner had a long-running column in the journal Current Biology, and this volume collects thirty-eight of his pieces covering his own life and career and a variety of other topics in molecular biology and related fields.

    Brenner was a leader in the field of genetics almost from the moment he received his doctorate at Oxford in 1954. He joined Francis Crick’s laboratory in 1956, and they did groundbreaking research on how DNA is decoded by cells. Brenner proposed that the nucleotides which comprise DNA (adenine, guanine, thiamine and cytosine) are read by the cell in sets of three called codons, with each codon representing an amino acid (for example, three adenines in a row is the codon for the amino acid lysine). A gene is simply a string of codons that directs the production of a protein molecule from individual amino acids. He also correctly predicted the existence of messenger RNA, the molecule that carries the genetic code from the nucleus to the ribosomes, where the translation process occurs.

    Following this work, it was Brenner’s efforts to establish a new laboratory organism for the study of genetics that led to his Nobel Prize. “Beginning in 1965, he began to lay the groundwork to make C. elegans, a small, transparent nematode, into a major model organism for genetics, neurobiology and developmental biology research. As a direct result of his original vision, this tiny worm became the first animal for which the complete cell lineage and entire neuronal wiring were known. Today, more than 1,000 investigators are studying C. elegans, and Brenner’s work was further honored when a closely related nematode was named Caenorhabditis brenneri” (Salk Institute biography).

  • ...Illustrations by Andrzej Krauze. London: Current Biology Ltd., 1997.

    Octavo. Original cream cloth, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Line drawings throughout. An excellent copy in the jacket that is just a little rubbed along the edges, with a small blue ink mark on the upper panel.