Appendix: Interactions with Outsiders and Insiders—Justice to Priority Truth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


My major, lifelong scientific interest, Bacterial Physiology and The Cell Cycle, was inseminated by Bob in my Leicester formative experience. Peter Barth had just left three months before my arrival hence the gossip information about previous events in the field was delivered to me by John Collins. These were the years at which the field was consolidated by The Copenhagen School, as mentioned in this compendium. Particularly, cell size and macromolecular composition as a function of doubling time τ and during nutritional shift-up transitions was established by Maaløe’s team in 1958 and the values of C and D periods were found to be constants over a wide range of τ’s by Helmstetter et al. a decade later. Together, these seminal observations led to the conclusion that the main regulatory circuit of the cell cycle, initiation of chromosome replication occurs when cell mass (or volume) reaches a value Mi that is directly related to the number of oriC’s, as was so elegantly shown by William (Willie) Donachie. During the following decades, I’ve been convinced that this relationship (constant Mi/oriC copy-number) was discovered simultaneously, slightly preceded by Bob’s team. This wrong belief has slowly been shaken by cyberspace discussions between John and Peter, as well as mine with Helmstetter. These, and my own thoughts, were instrumental to grasp (yet again) that “ideas are cheap” (Willie citing Arthur Pardee; but see below) hence my recent references to this cornerstone of the field included all three articles. It becomes obvious now that this phenomenon, which underlies the molecular mechanism regulating replication-initiation and hence by default the whole cell cycle, was implied in Helmstetter et al. but explicitly and simultaneously stated and demonstrated by Willie! What Bob and his team of bright, young students advanced in their crucial article is the idea that the mode of regulation is negative, as is common in biological systems — particularly widespread during the decade of Jacob & Monod’s lac Operon Model. As Willie articulated, different models formulated to explain a phenomenon eventually converge; Bob would have agreed with this view, but would have also found another detail to argue about, as he used to do during his life: refining existing hypotheses and constructing new ones, with an admirable “innovative power”. In this sense, Willie and Bob could have been considered as ‘academic twins’…
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Life of Professor Robert Hugh Pritchard
Subtitle of host publicationThe Rise of Genetics at Leicester
PublisherWorld Scientific
Number of pages4
StatePublished - 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Appendix: Interactions with Outsiders and Insiders—Justice to Priority Truth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this