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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück Quotes

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Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
(4 Sep 1906 - 9 Mar 1981)

German-American microbiologist.

Science Quotes by Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück (7 quotes)

A strong feeling of adventure is animating those who are working on bacterial viruses, a feeling that they have a small part in the great drive towards a fundamental problem in biology.
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 187. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 238.
Science quotes on:  |  Adventure (42)  |  Animate (6)  |  Bacteria (32)  |  Biology (158)  |  Drive (44)  |  Fundamental (124)  |  Great (355)  |  Part (163)  |  Problem (382)  |  Small (125)  |  Virus (23)  |  Work (493)

Any living cell carries with it the experience of a billion years of experimentation by its ancestors. (1949)
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
Epigraph (witout citation) to Chap 6, in Arnold Jay Levine, Viruses: A Scientific American Library Book (1991), 113. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Molecular genetics, our latest wonder, has taught us to spell out the connectivity of the tree of life in such palpable detail that we may say in plain words, “This riddle of life has been solved.”
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
From Nobel Lecture (10 Dec 1969), 'A Physicist's Renewed Look at Biology – Twenty Years Later.' in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1963-1970 (1972), 405.
Science quotes on:  |  Connectivity (2)  |  Detail (68)  |  Genetics (100)  |  Molecular Genetics (2)  |  Palpable (2)  |  Riddle (18)  |  Solve (45)  |  Tree Of Life (4)  |  Wonder (152)

Suppose [an] imaginary physicist, the student of Niels Bohr, is shown an experiment in which a virus particle enters a bacterial cell and 20 minutes later the bacterial cell is lysed and 100 virus particles are liberated. He will say: “How come, one particle has become 100 particles of the same kind in 20 minutes? That is very interesting. Let us find out how it happens! How does the particle get in to the bacterium? How does it multiply? Does it multiply like a bacterium, growing and dividing, or does it multiply by an entirely different mechanism ? Does it have to be inside the bacterium to do this multiplying, or can we squash the bacterium and have the multiplication go on as before? Is this multiplying a trick of organic chemistry which the organic chemists have not yet discovered ? Let us find out. This is so simple a phenomenon that the answers cannot be hard to find. In a few months we will know. All we have to do is to study how conditions will influence the multiplication. We will do a few experiments at different temperatures, in different media, with different viruses, and we will know. Perhaps we may have to break into the bacteria at intermediate stages between infection and lysis. Anyhow, the experiments only take a few hours each, so the whole problem can not take long to solve.”
[Eight years later] he has not got anywhere in solving the problem he set out to solve. But [he may say to you] “Well, I made a slight mistake. I could not do it in a few months. Perhaps it will take a few decades, and perhaps it will take the help of a few dozen other people. But listen to what I have found, perhaps you will be interested to join me.”
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 161-162. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 237.
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The books of the great scientists are gathering dust on the shelves of learned libraries. ... While the artist's communication is linked forever with its original form, that of the scientist is modified, amplified, fused with the ideas and results of others and melts into the stream of knowledge and ideas which forms our culture. The scientist has in common with the artist only this: that he can find no better retreat from the world than his work and also no stronger link with the world than his work.
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
From Nobel Lecture (10 Dec 1969), 'A Physicist's Renewed Look at Biology – Twenty Years Later.' in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1963-1970 (1972), 409.
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[About the structure of DNA] [T]he whole business was like a child's toy that you could buy at the dime store, all built in this wonderful way that you could explain in Life magazine so that really a five-year-old can understand what's going on...This was the greatest surprise for everyone.
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
Quoted in Horace Freeland Judson, Eighth Day of Creation (1979)
Science quotes on:  |  DNA (67)

[Physicists] feel that the field of bacterial viruses is a fine playground for serious children who ask ambitious questions.
— Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 161. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 237.
Science quotes on:  |  Ambitious (2)  |  Ask (117)  |  Bacteria (32)  |  Child (208)  |  Field (127)  |  Playground (5)  |  Question (327)  |  Serious (40)  |  Virus (23)

Quotes by others about Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück (1)

In 1944 Erwin Schroedinger, stimulated intellectually by Max Delbruck, published a little book called What is life? It was an inspiration to the first of the molecular biologists, and has been, along with Delbruck himself, credited for directing the research during the next decade that solved the mystery of how 'like begat like.' Max was awarded this Prize in 1969, and rejoicing in it, he also lamented that the work for which he was honored before all the peoples of the world was not something which he felt he could share with more than a handful. Samuel Beckett's contributions to literature, being honored at the same time, seemed to Max somehow universally accessible to anyone. But not his. In his lecture here Max imagined his imprisonment in an ivory tower of science.
'The Polymerase Chain Reaction', Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1993). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1991-1995 (1997), 103.
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See also:
  • 4 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Delbrück's birth.

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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