Tuesday, June 1, 1999

Q&A: Jonathan Weiner

 Originally appeared in the Boston Book Review. Date Approximate. 

With the discovery of the clock gene, the sense of time, mysterious for so many centuries, was no longer a mystery that could be observed only from the outside. Now it could be explored as a mechanism from the inside. The discovery implied that behavior itself could now be charted and mapped as precisely as any other aspect of inheritance. Qualities that people had always thought of a somehow floating above the body, apart from the body, as if they belonged to the realm of the spirit and not of the flesh, as if they were supernatural, might be mapped right alongside qualities as mundane as eye pigment.
   "Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior"

Science writer Jonathan Weiner is author of Pulitzer Prize winning, "The Beak of the Finch." His new book, "Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior," is about biologist Seymour Benzer's work with fruit flies and the development of modern genetics,

HB: Seymour Benzer seems like a guy who followed his own instincts. If the crowd was going in one direction, he was likely to go the other way.

JW: Always. He started out in physics, doing work that led to the invention of the transistor, then got out of there, because it was getting too hot, almost immediately. All of his friends said, you can get rich. He didn't want to get rich. he wanted to get to the next mystery. On to the gene.