culture, Science

Book: The lac operon — How do we know what we know?

I read The lac operon, which is a book about the history of the scientific work that led to our understanding of the DNA mechanisms that regulate the cell activities. The title ‘lac operon’ is from the name of a DNA mechanism that regulates lactose ‘eating’ in E. coli bacterium. The lac operon was one of the first examples that were analyzed.

The book is not so well written. The narration in the book is convoluted with the experiments and some anecdotes about the scientists behind those experiments. Very often these anecdotes pop up suddenly and break the flow of some scientific argument and vice versa. This book has great content but needs a good story teller like the author of Logicomix.

One anecdote caught my attention.  According to the anecdote, 50th birth day of Francis Crick was celebrated by presenting him a naked woman at a scientific conference! (You can find it at the end of the top paragraph of the page in this link). Even if it was not a real one (not clear from the text), it is outrageous. Was there no woman in the conference? Well it was still 60’s. Perhaps in those days, you could do such things without being called sexist and thrown out of scientific community.


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