This Week in Science History: 18-10-10

By Peter Dearden 18/10/2010

This week in Science History

Megan Leask, PhD student, Laboratory for Evolution and Development

Queen of the Flies – Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is born 20 Oct 1942

Expression of the Engrailed protein (one of the genes identified by Nüsslein-Volhard) in an aphid embryo. The protein is labeled with a purple dye and can be seen in cells that make up the nervous system and in stripes indicating the location of the segments. Image: Megan Leask

German developmental geneticist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (with Edward Lewis) for research into the mechanisms of early embryonic development. She co-authored with Eric Wieschaus the Nature paper “Mutations Affecting Segment Number and Polarity in Drosophila,” (1980), which revolutionised the field of developmental genetics. In a systematic search for mutant genes affecting the formation of segments in the eggs of a small fruit fly, they identified the developmental pathway that leads to segmentation, elucidating one of the main processes of development in the fruit fly embryo. In the Laboratory for Evolution and Development at Otago this process is being analysed in both aphids and honeybee. Investigation of this process in other insects makes it possible to elucidate how developmental pathways have evolved throughout the insect lineage.

George Wells Beadle – Born 22 Oct 1903; died 9 Jun 1989.

George Wells Beadle was an American geneticist who helped found biochemical genetics when he showed that genes are responsible for regulating chemical events. He shared the 1958 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Edward Tatum and Joshua Lederberg. Beadle and Tatum succeeded in demonstrating that key molecules in the body are synthesized in the individual cell in a step by step fashion in long chains of chemical reactions, and that genes control these processes by individually regulating the steps in the synthesis chain. This regulation takes place through formation of enzymes which are encoded by genes in our DNA.

Discovery of the TB bacterium

In 1882, (Heinrich Hermann) Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis germ (tubercle bacillus). He was a German physician and one of the founders of the science of bacteriology. He discovered the tubercle bacillus and the cholera bacillus. He won the 1905 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his investigations and discoveries in relation to tuberculosis. In addition Koch made important investigations concerning plague in humans, malaria and tropical dysentery.