(Brenner, Sydney) Szilard, Leo | Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts

  • First paperback printing. Originally published in 1978. This copy from the library of Nobel Prize-winning biologist Sydney Brenner, with his ownership signature and the date “April 1981” on the front free endpaper.

    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).

    The subject of this volume, Leo Szilard (1989-1964) was the physicist who in 1934 conceived the possibility of the nuclear chain reaction, leading directly to the development of nuclear weapons and energy. He patented the idea of a fission reactor in 1934, and authored the letter which Einstein signed encouraging Franklin D. Roosevelt to initiate the Manhattan Project. Szilard was part of Enrico Fermi’s team at the University of Chicago which created the first sustained nuclear chain reaction, and continued on as a member of the Manhattan Project before drafting the Szilard petition which argued that Japan must be given the chance to surrender before the atomic bomb was used against them. Following the war Szilard switched his focus to biology. He invented the chemostat and was involved in the first cloning of a human cell.

  • ...Selected Recollections and Correspondence. Edited by Spencer R. Weart & Gertrud Weiss Szilard. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1980.

    Large octavo. Original blue wrappers printed in white and black, and decorated with a series of black and white portraits of Szilard. Illustrations from black and white photos throughout. Wrappers very lightly rubbed and creased. An excellent copy.