Science is usually viewed with awe, not to mention a little fear or suspicion; it is perceived as a realm that most people cannot understand, let alone hope to enter. Such an approach can be dangerous if they can affect public policy concerning the use of science.
If the public is to have a say in developing guidelines for dealing with certain scientific problems, it should fist have a clear sense of what science can and cannot be expected to do. This in turn, depends on some understanding regarding the scientific research and the scientific community. It would help if scientists tried harder to explain their everyday work to the general public Right?
AdvertisementWith this in mind, we present the latest news about the international recognition of scientists who have been pioneers in the field of genetics, reproduction and development. Two scientists who first identified stem cells and two others who did pioneering work in DNA research have won prestigious medical awards. These scientists are entitled to receive a cash award of $50,000 from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation that would be presented on Friday in New York.
The prize for basic medical research will be shared by Ernest McCulloch and James Till of the Ontario Cancer Institute and the University of Toronto for their pioneering identification of a stem cell. By the early 1970s, they showed clearly that a single type of bone marrow stem cell could create red cells, white cells and platelets.
The Lasker prize for clinical medical research will be shared by two scientists from the United Kingdom, Sir Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester and Sir Edwin Southern of Oxford University.
Jeffreys discovered in 1984 that individuals' DNA differed in particular sites, where the chemical sequence that makes up the genetic code exhibited variable numbers of repeats. This meant that a DNA sample could be linked to the person it came from and ever since its introduction, the technique called as DNA fingerprinting has been used in solving criminal cases, settlement of paternity issues and identification of dead bodies of soldiers.
Southern, in the mid 1970s, devised a now-standard lab technique that allows scientists to detect specific bits of genetic code within an organism's overall DNA. The technique has now achieved the status of a standard battery of tests performed in the field of molecular biology.
It is appropriate at this juncture that it is the gradual accumulation of unexciting bits of knowledge and experimental techniques by many workers that has set the stage for the great discoveries or insights of a few, usually in ways that could be ever predicted.