May 2012

Reader comments online

Comments from the April 2012 Lipid News article


The article "Are we doing a good job of teaching the groundbreaking research of our predecessors?" by Dennis Vance stemmed from a lecture he gave where none of the student's had ever heard of Konrad Bloch (left).  Read what is being said about the author's take on this.

A grand idea (that I have been pushing for years) that should not be limited to the teaching of lipid biochemistry. All science should be taught from a historical perspective. Otherwise, as I fear often occurs, science appears as an ever-increasing and unapproachable body of facts. We would all be better served to teach science as method, as an ever-simplifying body of explanations. Teach how scientists practically got from knowing a little to knowing a little more. Emphasize that they did not know the answer before they actually designed and performed the experiment!
Tim Clair, biochemist, National Institutes of Health, retired  

There being only 24 hours in our days, there is a first-things-first outlook that says history is very nice, but sorry, I have experiments to do and grants to write. However, there are still enormous lessons of great practical importance to be learned from biohistory, which currently, like war history, tends to get written by the victors, with corresponding bias. Occasionally, the victors admit their errors. Here, the tell-all account by Klaus Eichmann (Birkhauser 2008) is insightful. It is entitled, “The Network Collective: The Rise and Fall of a Scientific Paradigm.” Unfortunately, professional biohistorians are thin on the ground. We need to encourage both the agencies to fund biohistory research and our students to consider it as an early career option.
Donald Forsdyke, Queen’s University, Canada  

It is unfortunate that there seems to be little time to relate what we know to how we got to know what we know. Students get stuffed with facts and abstractions that they have difficulty relating to living cells and organisms. As James Bryant Conant said, we need to stimulate curiosity, and students will learn on their own. Stories can do that. When Nathan Kaplan was chair of biochemistry at Brandeis in the 1960s, “History of Biochemistry” was a required course. As his students learned, many classic experiments and stories lie hidden in the literature and never make it to the textbook or lecture. Having worked as a postdoc in Konrad Bloch’s lab, I have many stories about KB. (That is not kilobases.)
Hal White, University of Delaware
P.S. Even Linus Pauling is a name students don’t recognize anymore. [BAMBED 34(4), 305 (2006)]

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