Esther Lederberg dies

Pioneering microbial geneticist was 83

Cathy Tran
Dec 6, 2006
Esther Lederberg, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, died of pneumonia and congestive heart failure on November 11. She was 83."She was a very keen observer and picked up biological phenomena that would have escaped the eyes and intellects of most other people," Stanley N. Cohen at Stanford University, who collaborated with Lederberg in the 1970s, told The Scientist.Lederberg's 1951 discovery of lambda phage in the K-12 strain of E. Coli was a piece of luck facilitated by keen observation, Allan Campbell at Stanford University told The Scientist. She had "zapped" the strain with a large dose of ultraviolent light for another experiment and noticed "nibbled colonies," he said. Lederberg furthered examined these "nibbles" and isolated the culprit: lambda phage. "It was a very big thing and became the premiere tool in molecular biology for many years," Richard Novick at New York University told The...