Brenner, Sydney & Lewis Wolpert

Sydney Brenner. A Life in Science.

  • First edition, first impression. Presentation copy inscribed from Brenner to his wife on the half title, “To May, for all the years, S. Nov 1999”.

    This volume contains the transcript of video interviews with Nobel Prize-winning biologist Sydney Brenner conducted between April 10th and May 21st, 1994, and was released together with the video recording. It was the first in a series of interviews with leading scientists, the others published in 1999 being Edward Teller, John Maynard Smith, Hans Bethe, Michael Atiyah, and John A. Wheeler. The interviews are comprehensive, beginning with Brenner’s childhood in South Africa and covering his life as a student, interests and influences, personal life, and his full career in great detail. A more traditional biography based on these interviews, with the slightly different title “My Life in Science”, was published in 2001 and is much more common.

    Sydney Brenner (1927 - ) has been 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).

  • ...Recorded on 10 April - 21 May 1994. 


  • London: Science Archive, 1997.

    Octavo. Original yellow wrappers printed in black. Spine slightly creased. An excellent, fresh copy.

Related Items