One milestone of the modern scientific era was the first publication by George W. Beadle (1903-1989) and Edward L. Tatum (1909-1975) on the biochemical genetics of Neurospora (PNAS, 27:499-506, 1941). Its 50th anniversary is being commemorated in several places this summer.
Beadle and Tatum's work is worthy of fond celebration not only for its inherent scientific merit--its impact on biochemical research continues to resonate today--but also because it convincingly affirms the value of a kind of multi-disciplinary collaboration that, unfortunately, is insufficiently encouraged in the current research environment.
Genetic research up to 1941 was dominated by work on the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and the efficiency of this research greatly relied on the ease with which thousands of these flies could be cultured and scanned. Much was learned studying mutations for visible morphological characteristics--bent wings, albino eyes, and so forth. But years of effort on the biochemical basis of these...
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