(Brenner, Sydney) McFarlane, Gwyn

Alexander Fleming. The Man and the Myth.

  • First edition, first printing. From the library of Nobel Prize-winning biologist Sydney Brenner, with his contemporary ownership inscription in ink on the front free endpaper, “Syndey Brenner, 12 March 1984”.

    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).

    This volume is an important re-evaluation of the life and work of Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin. Its author, Gwyn McFarlane, was a clinical pathologist at Oxford who did important work on haemophilia. “During the second world war, he worked alongside members of the penicillin team, who did war work with Oxford’s blood transfusion service, and later became friends with Howard Florey. He wrote two biographies during his retirement, this biography of Fleming and a biography of Florey” (Bodleian Library blog post, May 9th, 2017).

  • Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.

    Octavo. Original black cloth, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Portrait frontispiece and 8 pages of plates. An excellent, fresh copy in the jacket that is just a little faded along the spine panel and rubbed at the extremities.

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