Gerald Edelman (1984) - The one-dimensional code and the four-dimensional animal: some molecular bases for embryonic form

Gerald Edelman (1984)

The one-dimensional code and the four-dimensional animal: some molecular bases for embryonic form

Gerald Edelman (1984)

The one-dimensional code and the four-dimensional animal: some molecular bases for embryonic form

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Gerald Edelman came to Lindau with a fascinating story about the discovery of CAMs, Cell Adhesion Molecules. By sticking to the surface of cells, these molecules guide the processes by which cells bind with other cells. In particular they play an important role in the way animals build their nervous systems and achieve their shape and form. This was the second time that Edelman lectured at the Lindau meetings, but already his first lecture in 1975 showed his interest in the research, which eventually led to the discovery of CAMs. With a considerable number of Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine in the audience, it seems that Edelman to some extent gave his lecture for them and only now and then for the students and young scientists. That he was aware of what he was doing is underpinned by the story he tells in the beginning: Someone laughing to jokes given in an un-understandable foreign language just because he trusted that they were funny. Edelman’s lecture must have been to a large part far over the heads of the students and many of the young scientists. It is accompanied with very many slides, sometimes shown very quickly. But when he arrives at the end, a little bit out of breath and maybe with a little bit of a bad conscience, he stops and addresses himself to the young people in the audience. To these he gives several optimistic messages, one of them being that there is much more to find out, another that science is about questions as much as it is about answers. After quoting the very first Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, J.H. van ‘t Hoff, Edelman turns to poetry by noting the similarities of science and poetry, both being about spirit, imagination and variation. Finally, he ends with a more scientific message: No two brains or no two individuals will be alike and no one can predict the embryonic process in all its minute details! Anders Bárány

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