Chemistry & Physics

(Brenner, Sydney) Peierls, Rudolf | Bird of Passage. Recollections of a Physicist

  • First edition, first printing. From the library of Nobel Prize-winning biologist Sydney Brenner, with his ownership inscription to the front free endpaper, “Sydney Brenner, Princeton, Jan 1986”. This volume is the memoirs of theoretical physicist Rudolf Peierls (1907-1995), who was part of the British “Tube Alloys” nuclear weapon programme, and then the Manhattan Project, before becoming deeply involved with anti-nuclear activism.

    Sydney Brenner (1927-2019) 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).

  • Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

    Octavo. Original green cloth, titles to spine gilt on black ground. With the dust jacket. 6 double-sided plates of illustrations from photographs. An excellent copy in the jacket that is a little rubbed and bumped at the edges with some fading of the spine panel.