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Homo Floresiensis: Our Clown-Footed Cousins

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John DennehyRSS Feed of this column.

I'm an evolutionary biologist and assistant professor at Queens College, City University of New York, who studies bacteriophage life history stochasticity and the population dynamics of host/pathogen

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Sanger F, Nicklen S, Coulson AR. 1977. DNA sequencing with chain-terminating inhibitors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U S A 74: 5463-7.

This paper describes the most important
(IMHO) technical breakthrough in the biological sciences:  DNA sequencing using a single-stranded DNA template, a DNA primer, a DNA polymerase, radioactively or fluorescently labeled nucleotides, and modified nucleotides that terminate DNA strand elongation.
Behind every major scientific effort is a story. Beadle and Tatum's story is one of persistence. They began with a hypothesis: each gene causes the production of a single enzyme, and that enzyme catalyzes a biochemical reaction within an organism.

The seeds of this hypothesis were spawned by Sir Archibald Garrod, who reported in 1909 that alkaptonuria - an inherited condition in which the urine is colored dark red by the chemical alkapton - results from a single recessive gene, which causes a deficiency in the enzyme that normally breaks down alkapton.
This statement about natural selection is the last sentence of Adaptation and Natural Selection, George Williams' masterpiece about evolution. George Williams is one of the unsung heroes of 20th century science. An evolutionary biologist I know (who shall remain anonymous to spare him/her public shaming) claimed not to know who was George Williams. I was/still am aghast. This anonymous evolutionary biologist is the inspiration for this post, indeed for my series of citation classics (see also here).
One of the things I enjoyed most about my time at Yale was the history of the place. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the famous scientists that worked there, including Lederberg, Tatum, Altman, Palade, Gilman etc.  It gave me a sense of being part of a long tradition, part of something important.
Two articles addressing blogging and science have appeared recently in Trends in Ecology and Evolution and in PLoS Biology.

Today epigenetics is all the rage, but it has its roots in a pair of papers that appeared nearly simultaneously in 1952-1953.

Luria SE and Human ML. 1952. A nonhereditary, host-induced variation of bacterial viruses. J. Bact. 64: 557-569 and also Bertani G and Weigle JJ. 1953. Host controlled variation in bacterial viruses. J. Bact. 65: 113-121. 

Luria & Human and Bertani & Weigle independently discovered that bacterial hosts can affect the growth and phenotypic properties of their bacteriophages.