Joshua Lederberg dies

Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist who shaped the field of bacterial genetics, and served as chair of The Scientist's advisory board since 1986, died on Saturday (February 2). He was 82. Lederberg shared a linkurl:Nobel Prize; in physiology and medicine in 1958 for the discovery that certain strains of bacteria reproduce by mating, thereby exchanging their genetic material. This overturned the idea held

By | February 4, 2008

Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist who shaped the field of bacterial genetics, and served as chair of The Scientist's advisory board since 1986, died on Saturday (February 2). He was 82. Lederberg shared a linkurl:Nobel Prize; in physiology and medicine in 1958 for the discovery that certain strains of bacteria reproduce by mating, thereby exchanging their genetic material. This overturned the idea held at the time that bacteria did not warrant genetic study and set the field of bacterial genetics into motion. According to the ISI database Lederberg published 288 papers. His most highly cited paper, published in 1952 on bacterial mutants, was cited more than 1100 times. An analysis of citations of Lederberg's papers can be found linkurl:here.; "He was one of the most significant scientists of our generation" Eugene Garfield, founder of The Scientist, said. Lederberg was also one of the early supporters of the Science Citation Index, developed by Garfield in the 1950s. Lederberg wrote a letter to Garfield in 1959, praising his concept of "Citation Indexes," and the two continued to discuss the idea as Garfield developed it in the 1960s. They remained close friends and colleagues since then. Lederberg wrote numerous articles for The Scientist, outlining his diverse interests in linkurl:biology,; the search for extraterrestrial life -- which he termed exobiology (read about it linkurl:here; ), linkurl:scientific communication; and linkurl: scientific philosophy.; In 1957, Lederberg founded the department of medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and moved two years later to Stanford University School of Medicine where he founded the department of genetics. Lederberg was married to a fellow microbial geneticist, linkurl:Esther Zimmer,; for 20 years. Soon after they divorced, he married his wife of 40 years, Marguerite. Lederberg served as the president of Rockefeller University from 1978 until 1990, remaining at Rockefeller as president emeritus of molecular genetics and informatics. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1989 and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Lederberg is survived by his wife Marguerite, and their two children. Look for more tributes of Lederberg's life and career in the coming days. Post your own memories of Lederberg linkurl:here.; Editor's Note: A correction has been made to this story. In the original version the article stated that Lederberg moved to Stanford University and founded the school of medicine. He in fact founded the department of genetics there, which this new version reflects. The Scientist regrets the error.


Avatar of: P Thompson

P Thompson

Posts: 1

February 5, 2008

I fondly recall my molecular biology course, taught by geneticist Tex Barnett, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He took us all down that wonderful genetics highway. One of the first stops on the trip was Dr. Lederberg's seminal work. The genetic exchange he discovered is, of course, foundational to the microbiology course I now teach. Thank you, Dr. Lederberg, and Dr. Barnett.


Posts: 3

February 5, 2008

Prof. Lederberg and I had a wonderful moment that illustrates his nature which I would like to share.\nIn 1993, I organized and chaired a NY Academy of Sciences meeting to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the elucidation of the structure of the double helix by Watson and Crick. During the meeting, attended by over 1000 people (published as DNA, The Double Helix, Perspective and Prospective at Forety Years, ed.DA Chambers, Annals, NY Acad. Sci,, Vol. 758), Josh turned to me and remarked your accent is similar to mine so which high school in New York did you attend; Stuyvesant or Bronx Science? I answered Bronx Science to which Josh responded with a twinkle, "Oh, unlike you, I had the best of both worlds. I graduated from Stuyvesant but some years ago, I was invited to give a lecture at Science and my price was an honorary diploma, so now I have diplomas from both schools and am a happy man". Prof. Lederberg had a pride and passion for excellence coupled with a wonderful sense of humor that was a joy to behold.


Posts: 5

February 5, 2008

I had the great pleasure of knowing Josh Lederberg over a span of more than five decades. Josh and Ed Tatum had just set microbial genetics on a new course, with conjugation in Escherichia coli K-12. In rapid succession came replica plating, indirect selection of drug resistant mutants, limited and general transduction. Josh had a unique gift for recognizing important questions and finding direct approaches leading to their resolution, as he did in demonstrating mitochondrial self-replication and the action of penicillin to produce spheroplasts. Josh laid the conceptual foundation for our understanding of the gene: cis/trans effects (cistron); recombination unit ('rit'); mutational unit ('mit'); and physiological unit ('phit'). Josh spelled out a conceptual basis for the gentic control of antibody formation, and more recently, the recognition of the 'biome' as the true gentic complement of multicellular organisms. Few scientists have opened so many doors that have provided insight into life's processes.
Avatar of: Fukai Bao

Fukai Bao

Posts: 15

February 5, 2008

He pave the way for the establishment of modern genetics. I read his many insightful papers which give me a deep impact.\n\nFukai Bao,MD,Postdoc(Yale)\n\nProfessor and chairman\nDepartment of Microbiology and immunology\nKunming Medical College\n191 Renminxi road,Kunming 650031, Yunnan\nP. R. of China\nPostcode:650031\nTel:0086-871-5338884,5314539,13888369882\\n\n
Avatar of: Larry Kedes

Larry Kedes

Posts: 3

February 6, 2008

A fond recollection that may well reveal the depth of his intellectual powers: \nMy first encounter with Josh Lederberg as a Stanford faculty member was at a scientific presentation in a small conference room. Josh entered carrying a stack of journals and a paper sack lunch. Josh appeared to be paying little attention to the presentation; he rummaged in his sack with gusto for lunch items and read the journals intently. But about twenty minutes into the talk he interrupted with a devastating barrage of insightful questions that revealed he had followed the talk better than any of the rest of us.
Avatar of: DAVID STEIN


Posts: 2

March 18, 2010

3/18/2010\n\nTO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:\n\nI am sorry to learn of the passing of Joshua Lederberg, however, I believe there is a need to place in law the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 by the 111 Congress.\n \nI would like to have President Obama answer the below question. \n \nIt was my desire that President Barack Obama and the U.S.A. citizen address the question to have the 111 Congress pass into law and insist that Congress pass that Act of 2007.\n \nThe reason is simple. Should President Obama not be re-elected in 2012, the new Republican President would reverse what President Obama achieved in 2009.\n\nWe need a law in the U.S.A. to finally establish the need for Embryonic Stem Cell Research to continue to prove that cures would emanate from these versatile embryonic stem cell lines once introduced in the chronically disabled citizen in this country. At present, approximately 150,000,000 + citizens living in the U.S.A. could benefit from a cure from these plori-potent unique embryonic stem cells.\n \nTHE TIME IS RIGHT... THE TIME IS NOW... TO HAVE OBAMA'S MESSAGE TO THE 111 CONGRESS IS TO PASS INTO LAW OF THE STEM CELL RESEARCH ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2007. \n \nAS MENTIONED ABOVE\n \nAPPROXIMATELY 150,000,000 + AND (THESE NUMBERS ARE GROWING EVERY DAY) INDIVIDUALS LIVING IN THE U.S.A. TODAY WITH CHRONIC DISEASES AND ILLNESSES ARE COUNTING ON THIS NEW ADMINISTRATION TO HELP THEM OUT. \n \nMY STORY: I BEING ONE WHO IS A 66 YEAR OLD MALE WHO HAS SUFFERED FROM INSULIN DEPENDENT TYPE 2 DIABETES FOR THE LAST 19 YEARS OF MY LIFE, AND I WANT FINALLY SOMETHING DONE BY THIS ADMINISTRATION TO ALLEVIATE OUR SUFFERING. I LIKE MANY INDIVIDUALS ARE CAPTIVE TO DRUGS. FOR MYSELF, MY LIFE IS CONTROLLED BY THE INSULIN I TAKE TO SURVIVE.\n \nWE NOW ARE BAILING OUT EVERY BUSINESS INSTITUTION BUT IGNORING 150,000,000 + INDIVINDUALS WHO ALSO NEED A MEDICAL BAILOUT. \n \nPLEASE GET BACK TO ME, AND NOT IGNORE OUR CRY FOR HELP!!! \n \nAS STATED BY THE PUBLIC, THERE A CRUCIAL NEEDS FOR THE ISSUANCE INTO LAW OF THE STEM CELL RESEARCH ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2007.\n \nWHY IS PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA NEGATING THIS PRESSING ISSUE? HE SHOULD ACNOWLEDGE OUR PLITE AND NO LONGER STALE AND ACT ON OUR DESIRE TO SEE THIS ACT OF 2007 ENACTED INTO LAW.\n \nWE THE SUFFERERS DEMAND ANSWERS TO WHEN THIS ACT WILL BECOME THE LAW OF THE LAND?\n \nIt is my position that we live in the U.S.A. by the rule of drugs vs cures. I strongly believe that our health care woes can be finally nullified by an Apollo project to get the cures for many diseases. With this approach the Pharmaceutical industry will finally be rained it since cures will take the place of drugs and the Medi-care/Medi-caid dilemma in the United States of America can be saved since we no longer rely on drugs. \n\nLet?s talk. comments gladly accepted\n \nBest regards,\n \nDave Stein, \n \n43 Griffith Miles Circle Bucks County Pennsylvania, 18974\n \nA Member of The Stem Cell Action Network (SCAN)\n \n\n

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