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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index M > Hermann Joseph Muller Quotes

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Hermann Joseph Muller
(21 Dec 1890 - 5 Apr 1967)

American biologist and geneticist.


Science Quotes by Hermann Joseph Muller (10 quotes)

As science is more and more subject to grave misuse as well as to use for human benefit it has also become the scientist's responsibility to become aware of the social relations and applications of his subject, and to exert his influence in such a direction as will result in the best applications of the findings in his own and related fields. Thus he must help in educating the public, in the broad sense, and this means first educating himself, not only in science but in regard to the great issues confronting mankind today.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
Message to University Students Studying Science', Kagaku Asahi 11, no. 6 (1951), 28-29. Quoted in Elof Axel Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H. J. Muller (1981), 371.
Science quotes on:  |  Application (117)  |  Benefit (54)  |  Education (280)  |  Influence (110)  |  Issue (37)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Misuse (9)  |  Relation (96)  |  Responsibility (47)  |  Society (188)

If these d'Hérelle bodies were really genes, fundamentally like our chromosome genes, they would give us an utterly new angle from which to attack the gene problem. They are filterable, to some extent isolable, can be handled in test-tubes, and their properties, as shown by their effects on the bacteria, can then be studied after treatment. It would be very rash to call these bodies genes, and yet at present we must confess that there is no distinction known between the genes and them. Hence we can not categorically deny that perhaps we may be able to grind genes in a mortar and cook them in a beaker after all. Must we geneticists become bacteriologists, physiological chemists and physicists, simultaneously with being zoologists and botanists? Let us hope so.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
'Variation Due to Change in the Individual Gene', The American Naturalist (1922), 56, 48-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Bacteria (32)  |  Bacteriologist (4)  |  Beaker (2)  |  Botanist (16)  |  Chemist (79)  |  Chromosome (17)  |  Cook (12)  |  Deny (29)  |  Félix d’Hérelle (2)  |  Filter (6)  |  Gene (68)  |  Geneticist (11)  |  Grind (8)  |  Physicist (130)  |  Property (96)  |  Test Tube (7)  |  Treatment (88)  |  Zoologist (10)

Inheritance by itself leads to no change, and variation leads to no permanent change, unless the variations themselves are heritable. Thus it is not inheritance and variation which bring about evolution, but the inheritance of variation.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
In 'Variation Due to Change in the Individual Gene', The American Naturalist (Jan-Feb 1922), 56, No. 642, 35.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (291)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Inheritance (19)  |  Permanence (15)  |  Variation (50)

Investigating the conditions under which mutations occur … requires studies of mutation frequency under various methods of handling the organisms. As yet, extremely little has been done along this line. That is because, in the past, a mutation was considered a windfall, and the expression “mutation frequency” would have seemed a contradiction in terms. To attempt to study it would have seemed as absurd as to study the conditions affecting the distribution of dollar bills on the sidewalk. You were simply fortunate if you found one. … Of late, however, we may say that certain very exceptional banking houses have been found, in front of which the dollars fall more frequently—in other words, specially mutable genes have been discovered, that are beginning to yield abundant data at the hands of Nilsson-Ehle, Zeleny, Emerson, Anderson and others.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
In 'Variation Due to Change in the Individual Gene', The American Naturalist (Jan-Feb 1922), 56, No. 642, 44.
Science quotes on:  |  Condition (119)  |  Contradiction (44)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Distribution (21)  |  Frequency (13)  |  Gene (68)  |  Investigate (49)  |  Mutation (25)  |  Sidewalk (2)  |  Study (331)  |  Windfall (2)

Natural selection based on the differential multiplication of variant types cannot exist before there is material capable of replicating itself and its own variations, that is, before the origination of specifically genetic material or gene-material.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
'Genetic Nucleic Acid', Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1961), 5, 7.
Science quotes on:  |  Difference (208)  |  DNA (67)  |  Gene (68)  |  Genetics (98)  |  Natural Selection (79)  |  Replication (7)  |  Reproduction (57)  |  Variation (50)

The central problem of biological evolution is the nature of mutation, but hitherto the occurrence of this has been wholly refractory and impossible to influence by artificial means, although a control of it might obviously place the process of evolution in our hands.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
'The Recent Findings in Heredity' (unpublished lecture, 1916, Lilly Library), 3. Quoted in Elof Axel Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H. J. Muller (1981), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (150)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Mutation (25)  |  Occurrence (30)  |  Problem (362)  |  Process (201)

The gene as the basis of life.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
'The Gene as the Basis of Life', Proceedings of the International Congress of Plant Sciences (1929), 1, 897-921.
Science quotes on:  |  Gene (68)  |  Life (917)

The way to eliminate the unfit is to keep them from being born… . We should not only check degeneration—negatively—but further evolution, positively, by artificial insemination and work for the production of a nobler and nobler race of beings.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
(1910). In Elof Axel Carlson Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H.J. Muller (1981), 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Artificial Insemination (2)  |  Eliminate (15)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Genetics (98)  |  Noble (41)  |  Production (105)  |  Race (76)  |  Unfit (9)

To say that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Certain (84)  |  Chemical (72)  |  Description (72)  |  Element (129)  |  Fertilizer (10)  |  Intend (7)  |  Satisfactory (9)  |  Say (126)

We do not know of any enzymes or other chemical defined organic substances having specifically acting auto-catalytic properties such as to enable them to construct replicas of themselves. Neither was there a general principle known that would result in pattern-copying; if there were, the basis of life would be easier to come by. Moreover, there was no evidence to show that the enzymes were not products of hereditary determiners or genes, rather than these genes themselves, and they might even be products removed by several or many steps from the genes, just as many other known substances in the cell must be. However, the determiners or genes themselves must conduct, or at least guide, their own replication, so as to lead to the formation of genes just like themselves, in such wise that even their own mutations become .incorporated in the replicas. And this would probably take place by some kind of copying of pattern similar to that postulated by Troland for the enzymes, but requiring some distinctive chemical structure to make it possible. By virtue of this ability of theirs to replicate, these genes–or, if you prefer, genetic material–contained in the nuclear chromosomes and in whatever other portion of the cell manifests this property, such as the chloroplastids of plants, must form the basis of all the complexities of living matter that have arisen subsequent to their own appearance on the scene, in the whole course of biological evolution. That is, this genetic material must underlie all evolution based on mutation and selective multiplication.
— Hermann Joseph Muller
'Genetic Nucleic Acid', Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1961), 5, 6-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Basis (60)  |  Catalyst (6)  |  Cell (125)  |  Chromosome (17)  |  Enzyme (14)  |  Evidence (157)  |  Gene (68)  |  Heredity (51)  |  Life (917)  |  Multiplication (14)  |  Mutation (25)  |  Pattern (56)  |  Replication (7)


See also:
  • 21 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Muller'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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