Letter: Molecular Arrogance

The article "New Gene Technologies Could Reap Rich Floral Harvest" [The Scientist, Aug. 20, 1990, page 8] tells us that "A discipline that flourished for 30 years after plant hormones were first discovered in the 1920s, plant biology languished for a generation (my emphasis) until the late 1970s, when molecular techniques were first applied to plant systems." To me, this statement reflects either na9ve ignorance of recent history or a type of "molecular arrogance" based on the premise that the

Arthur Galston
Oct 1, 1990

The article "New Gene Technologies Could Reap Rich Floral Harvest" [The Scientist, Aug. 20, 1990, page 8] tells us that "A discipline that flourished for 30 years after plant hormones were first discovered in the 1920s, plant biology languished for a generation (my emphasis) until the late 1970s, when molecular techniques were first applied to plant systems." To me, this statement reflects either na9ve ignorance of recent history or a type of "molecular arrogance" based on the premise that the only significant advances in biology lie in the molecular field.

Here are a few significant findings from that "barren and unproductive" generation ending in the late 1970s, drawn only from my field of plant growth and development:

  • Phytochrome was discovered and isolated by Hendricks, Borthwick, Butler, and Siegelman. This ubiquitous and important chromoprotein, known to control gene action, is now the basis of much research in plant molecular...

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