Carl Woese/McClintock

S. Boomer sarai at u.washington.edu
Tue Sep 30 21:43:38 EST 1997


While the recent posts about sexism and the Nobel are interesting, I am
curious to put another "personality" issue in here - that doesn't
necessarily encompass gender issues (maybe it does...).

I just assigned (oh, that's fun to say!) a reading assignment to my
advanced micro. students all about Carl Woese, "Microbiology's Scarred
Revolutionary" (science, 276:645-)  I asked them for a "gut reaction"
piece of writing and
included lots of questions for them to ponder (including issues regarding
politics of science, the Nobel, controversial Nobel awards that they knew 
about,
and the nature of Woese's findings against that backdrop).  I'll be
curious what they say.

Anyway - I was struck by this article's notion that Woese represents a
maverick on a few levels:  first, he was trying to cross big scientific
disciplines and redefine evolution in terms of molecular biology as a
physicist/biophysicist; and,
second (whether this is true or not is perhaps too subjective), he is an
introvert.

I was struck by the comparisons to Barbara McClintock, who of course got
the Nobel - after years and years... perhaps the delay was due to similar
factors.  

So - all this talk about publicity and science got me thinking about this
whole public persona stuff.  Again, it is not so much a gender issue
perhaps - but certainly when I watch a lot of discussion about the
out-there figures like Watson or Mullis, I am struck by the comparisons to
McClintock and Woese.

So - a new twist... Does Woese deserve a Nobel.  If it was me voting, I'd
say hell yes.  

Phylogenetically,  Sarah







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