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The Symposia, 1933 — 2003

1965:   Sensory Receptors, Vol. XXX

Organizer: John Cairns

Table of Contents

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The "prime mover", as John Cairns put it, for this Symposium was Max Delbrück. Delbrück had been inspired to take up genetics by Neil Bohr's Light and Life lecture of 1932, in which Bohr speculated that his Complementarity Principle-which he used to account for the wave-particle duality of the electron-might also be apply to biology. Delbrück had chosen to study bacteriophage genetics because that seemed to offer the best chance of exploring the fundamental nature of heredity. His choice was a good one but no biological equivalent of the Complementarity Principle emerged-there was instead DNA. As early as 1953, Delbrück had already begun to look for other biological problems that might be amenable to a physical analysis and had settled on the phototropism of the sporangiophores of the mold Phycomyces. Delbrück taught

a Cold Spring Harbor course on Phycomyces in the 1960s but Phycomyces did not provide the key to understanding sensory physiology in the way that phage had unlocked the wonders of molecular genetics.

In his foreword, John Cairns commented that, although titled Sensory Receptors, the meeting's scope was greater; it covered not only signal transduction from stimulus to receptor, but also the subsequent events in the sensory process. Nevertheless, the Symposium went in good order through mechanoreceptors, hearing, olfactory receptors , electrical and chemical receptors, and photoreceptors.

Jan A. Witkowski

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