Biochemist Quotes (9 quotes)
I came to biochemistry through chemistry; I came to chemistry, partly by the labyrinthine routes that I have related, and partly through the youthful romantic notion that the natural sciences had something to do with nature. What I liked about chemistry was its clarity surrounded by darkness; what attracted me, slowly and hesitatingly, to biology was its darkness surrounded by the brightness of the givenness of nature, the holiness of life. And so I have always oscillated between the brightness of reality and the darkness of the unknowable. When Pascal speaks of God in hiding, Deus absconditus, we hear not only the profound existential thinker, but also the great searcher for the reality of the world. I consider this unquenchable resonance as the greatest gift that can be bestowed on a naturalist.
I should like to compare this rearrangement which the proteins undergo in the animal or vegetable organism to the making up of a railroad train. In their passage through the body parts of the whole may be left behind, and here and there new parts added on. In order to understand fully the change we must remember that the proteins are composed of Bausteine united in very different ways. Some of them contain Bausteine of many kinds. The multiplicity of the proteins is determined by many causes, first through the differences in the nature of the constituent Bausteine; and secondly, through differences in the arrangement of them. The number of Bausteine which may take part in the formation of the proteins is about as large as the number of letters in the alphabet. When we consider that through the combination of letters an infinitely large number of thoughts may be expressed, we can understand how vast a number of the properties of the organism may be recorded in the small space which is occupied by the protein molecules. It enables us to understand how it is possible for the proteins of the sex-cells to contain, to a certain extent, a complete description of the species and even of the individual. We may also comprehend how great and important the task is to determine the structure of the proteins, and why the biochemist has devoted himself with so much industry to their analysis.
If, as a chemist, I see a flower, I know all that is involved in synthesizing a flower’s elements. And I know that even the fact that it exists is not something that is natural. It is a miracle.
In a sense, genetics grew up as an orphan. In the beginning botanists and zoologists were often indifferent and sometimes hostile toward it. “Genetics deals only with superficial characters”, it was often said. Biochemists likewise paid it little heed in its early days. They, especially medical biochemists, knew of Garrod’s inborn errors of metabolism and no doubt appreciated them in the biochemical sense and as diseases; but the biological world was inadequately prepared to appreciate fully the significance of his investigations and his thinking. Geneticists, it should be said, tended to be preoccupied mainly with the mechanisms by which genetic material is transmitted from one generation to, the next.
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.
Primates stand at a turning point in the course of evolution. Primates are to the biologist what viruses are to the biochemist. They can be analysed and partly understood according to the rules of a simpler discipline, but they also present another level of complexity: viruses are living chemicals, and primates are animals who love and hate and think.
The present knowledge of the biochemical constitution of the cell was achieved largely by the use of destructive methods. Trained in the tradition of the theory of solutions, many a biochemist tends, even today, to regard the cell as a “bag of enzymes”. However, everyone realizes now that the biochemical processes studied in vitro may have only a remote resemblance to the events actually occurring in the living cell.
We already have anions and cations and now the biochemists and nutritionists are speaking of rat-ions.
When physiologists revealed the existence and functions of hormones they not only gave increased opportunities for the activities of biochemists but in particular gave a new charter to biochemical thought, and with the discovery of vitamins that charter was extended.