Peter Little on History of Science
  Peter Little     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

I mean I don’t think scientists understand history. If you ask scientists about history, they’ll interpret it all, you know, with hindsight and little discussions. If I knew what I knew now back then. It’s obvious that you wouldn’t have done it that way. I mean scientists are very poor historians often. There are some really some good ones, of course. But the majority of working scientists are not very good in understanding history. And a lot of them don’t know what it is either. I mean we don’t know our own history. It’s not taught. A scientist doesn’t require to know the history of science in anything other than a rather peculiar way. There are some key experiments that we talked about to make people understand, to make people understand the science that they do know. So you might be taught about Mendel’s peas, you might be. But you don’t have to teach Mendel’s peas to understand genetics anymore. In fact, it’s a hindrance. So we lose bits of history as we go along.

Peter Little is a bioinformatics researcher, professor of medical biochemistry and the head of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He received his Ph.D. working with recombinant DNA under Ed Southern and Peter Walker at Edinburgh University. In 1976, Little cloned a human gene – the second time this was ever accomplished.

Little’s laboratory studies the genetic basis of gene expression, and genetic variation as it pertains to the regulatory regions of the genes. He has hypothesized that there are two types of genetic variation that alter gene expression. His lab has also created advanced techniques for testing genetically influenced transcript variations.

He comes to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory regularly for genome meetings and symposia.