The Loom

Here is my first obituary in the New York Times, for Seymour Benzer. (It was pure coincidence, apparently, that they contacted me a couple days after I blogged about Benzer here.) It’s a nerve-racking experience summing up someone’s life in a few hundred words, especially a life as jam-packed as Benzer’s. Here’s one of many things that didn’t make it in: Benzer’s quest to find the genetic basis for loving spicy Asian food (via Jim Hu)


  1. #1 Barn Owl
    December 7, 2007

    Dr. Benzer continued his research long after the age when most scientists retire. In his late 70s, he began finding genes that control longevity in flies.

    “It’s always very refreshing to be able to just make a clean break, start over again with something you’re completely ignorant about,” Dr. Benzer said. “That’s very exhilarating; nothing’s expected of you because you’re a novice; and, with luck, you come up with something that other people were saying was impossible because they know too much.”

    You left the best part for last; we should all be so lucky and admirable, to retain our enthusiasm for science and a graceful humility well into our elder years, as did Dr. Benzer.

    Very nicely written.

  2. #2 Pinko Punko
    December 18, 2007

    The man was so huge, that even an unbelievably famous experiment such as the < href="">Raney nickel experiment has kind of fallen out of the official summary of his accomplishments.

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