Biological Order

Biological Order

Biological Order

Biological Order

Excerpt

A scientist invited to deliver a series of lectures has first to select a theme which is determined essentially by his own field of interest and activity. The scientist then has to organize the lectures according to the interest and knowledge of the potential audience. This is especially important when a biologist is going to lecture in an institute of technology, despite the fact that this institute enjoys an excellent department of biology. The Compton Lectures, as I was told, are intended for a very large group of students, mostly physicists and chemists. After discussing this matter with my M.I.T. colleagues, I decided that these Compton Lectures would be directed toward the young physicists and chemists, with a very specific goal, namely to interest them in biological problems. It is in view of this ambitious aim that biological order was selected as a theme. The lectures, being intended for physicists and chemists, were planned as if the audience knew nothing about biology. I certainly have to apologize for this hypothesis.

Thus life, the organism, and the cell have been defined and the problem of biological order posed in its generality. We have discussed in succession: the hereditary order, namely the nature, structure, reproduction, and variation of the genetic material; the functional order, namely the control of enzyme synthesis, and the interaction of heredity and environment; and finally viruses as representative of a specific order and at the same time of disorder. Biological order has been considered at the molecular level in its static as well as in its dynamic aspects. I have tried to explain how . . .

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