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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Sydney Brenner Quotes

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Sydney Brenner
(13 Jan 1927 - )

South African-British molecular biologist.

Science Quotes by Sydney Brenner (6 quotes)

As was predicted at the beginning of the Human Genome Project, getting the sequence will be the easy part as only technical issues are involved. The hard part will be finding out what it means, because this poses intellectual problems of how to understand the participation of the genes in the functions of living cells.
— Sydney Brenner
Loose Ends from Current Biology (1997), 71.
Science quotes on:  |  Genome (7)  |  Research (589)  |  Understand (326)

Have you tried neuroxing papers? It.'s a very easy and cheap process. You hold the page in front of your eyes and you let it go through there into the brain. It’s much better than xeroxing.
— Sydney Brenner
Quoted in L. Wolpert and A. Richards (eds.), A Passion for Science (1988), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (209)

I learnt very quickly that the only reason that would be accepted for not attending a committee meeting was that one already had a previous commitment to attend a meeting of another organization on the same day. I therefore invented a society, the Orion Society, a highly secret and very exclusive society that spawned a multitude of committees, sub-committees, working parties, evaluation groups and so on that, regrettably, had a prior claim on my attention. Soon people wanted to know more about this club and some even decided that they would like to join it. However, it was always made clear to them that applications were never entertained and that if they were deemed to qualify for membership they would be discreetly approached at the appropriate time.
— Sydney Brenner
Loose Ends from Current Biology (1997), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Committee (15)  |  Meeting (20)

I will ask you to mark again that rather typical feature of the development of our subject; how so much progress depends on the interplay of techniques, discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order of decreasing importance.
— Sydney Brenner
This is the original quote, which gave rise to the commonly seen misstated shortened quote as: “Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order”—with the qualifying words “interplay” and “decreasing importance” omitted. From Brenner’s own handwritten notes of a Speech (20 Mar 1980), 'Biology in the 1980s', at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel, Switzerland. Reproduced in his article 'Life sentences: Detective Rummage investigates', The Scientist (19 Aug 2002), 16, No. 16, 15. He reflects on the original wording of the quote, from his notes that he “came across”, while rummaging through “the piles of papers that I have accumulated,” (hence “Detective Rummage” in the title). See more on the commonly seen misstated shortened quote also on the Sydney Brenner Quotes web page of this site, beginning, “Progress in science…”.
Science quotes on:  |  Decrease (15)  |  Depend (87)  |  Development (276)  |  Discovery (676)  |  Feature (43)  |  Importance (216)  |  Interplay (7)  |  Order (239)  |  Probably (47)  |  Progress (362)  |  Subject (235)  |  Technique (49)  |  Typical (13)

It is now widely realized that nearly all the “classical” problems of molecular biology have either been solved or will be solved in the next decade. The entry of large numbers of American and other biochemists into the field will ensure that all the chemical details of replication and transcription will be elucidated. Because of this, I have long felt that the future of molecular biology lies in the extension of research to other fields of biology, notably development and the nervous system.
— Sydney Brenner
Letter to Max Perua, 5 June 1963. Quoted in William B. Wood (ed.), The Nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans (1988), x-xi.
Science quotes on:  |  Biochemistry (46)  |  Molecular Biology (24)

Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order.
— Sydney Brenner
As quoted in Miranda Robinson, 'Biology in the 1980s, Plus or Minus a Decade', Nature (5 Jun 1980), 285, 358-359. Note that Robinson gave her (slightly flawed) recollection of the quote from Brenner’s Speech (20 Mar 1980), 'Biology in the 1980s', Friedrich Miescher Institute Basel, Switzerland. Note that in other sources the journal date is stated incorrectly as 5 May 1980, for example, in Alan Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 39. See the original quote also on the Sydney Brenner Quotes web page of this site, beginning, “I will ask you…”
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (676)  |  Idea (577)  |  Progress (362)  |  Research (589)

See also:
  • 13 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Brenner's birth.
  • My Life in Science, by Dr. Sydney Brenner. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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