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Richard Lewontin: Race as a Biological Illusion

Evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin, an opponent of sociobiology and biological determinism and a strong advocate of defining race strictly as a socially but not biologically meaningful category, was born in New York on this date in 1929. In 1972, Lewontin identified that most of the genetic variation within human populations is found within local geographic groups, and that differences among so-called […]

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February 15: A Geneticist and Ethicist

Molecular biologist Maxine Frank Singer, who raised early alarms about the ethical issues involved in recombinant DNA research and organized the 1975 Asilomar Conference, which issued guidelines for dealing with those issues, was born in New York on this date in 1931. Singer was president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington from 1988 until 2002, […]

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February 9: Reverse Transcription in Genetics

Howard Martin Temin, who shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the reverse transcriptase — the enzyme that makes possible an interchange of information between RNA and DNA — died at 59 on this date in 1994. Temin was born in Philadelphia to progressive Jewish parents; for his bar mitsve, the family donated […]

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February 28: The Bubble Chamber

Donald A. Glaser, who at age 34 won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for his creation in 1952 of the bubble chamber, a vessel filled with a superheated transparent liquid (usually liquid hydrogen) that can be used to detect electrically charged particles moving through it, died at 86 on this date in 2013. Glaser’s […]

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December 18: The Mathematician of Biology

Mathematician Samuel Karlin, whose wide-ranging interests included mathematical applications for DNA analysis, game theory, economics, and population studies, died at 83 on this date in 2008. The author of 10 books and 450 scientific papers, he made significant contributions to the understanding of how random variables are governed by the laws of probability, how mathematical […]

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April 3: Jack the Ripper

The first of eleven unsolved murders of women by “Jack the Ripper” occurred in the impoverished Whitechapel District of the East End of London on this date in 1888. Two Jews have been leading suspects in the “Ripper” murders: Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who worked as a hairdresser in Whitechapel and died in an […]

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March 7: David Baltimore

1975 Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, a biologist who has made immense contributions in virology, cancer research, recombinant cell biology, and scientific institution-building, was born in New York on this date in 1938. In 1970, Baltimore discovered reverse transcription, the process by which tumor viruses and other retroviruses (such as HIV) infiltrate healthy cells in order […]

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April 16: Rosalind Franklin and the Double Helix

Rosalind Franklin, who made key contributions to Crick and Watson’s formulation of the double-helix structure of DNA but received little credit for her work, died on this date in 1958 at age 37. Franklin was born in Notting Hill, London to a family involved in banking, government, trade union organizing and women’s suffrage. The family […]

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