Edward Lewis on Scientific Life and Mind
  Edward Lewis     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

I had been interested in animals at age 10 but I didn’t know anything about what science was and why you would be doing that. I mainly read Bertrand Russell books. He had a good description about science and what it is about and even today students know nothing about how science advances and so on.

I think it’s become a frantic rat race. I guess all rat races are frantic, to get something done, to get you a degree and get you out. I’m speaking for the average [person] maybe. I don’t think the student gets close enough to the basic ideas, because all the basic ideas are already out there in the textbook. You have to try to find some niche where no one is working on a real problem to solve. You can’t make much [of a] dent on it as an individual, only a group can work together because of the complexity of the problems that are now left over. In genetics all of the basic problems have been solved. So you now work on complex interactions between genes. There’s no real approach there yet, unless there is some kind of computer analysis, which brings in another discipline. Everything is more complex or deliberately made more complex. I don’t know.

Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004) was a renowned leader in genetics and Drosophila development research. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1942. He served as captain of the United States Army Air Force from 1942-1945 as a meteorologist and an oceanographer in the Pacific Theatre. In 1946, he joined the Caltech faculty and was appointed Professor of Biology in 1956, earning a Thomas Hunt Morgan Professorship in 1966. In 1995, Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development” along with Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus. Lewis is also a recipient of the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal (1983), the Gairdner Foundation International award (1987), the Wolf Foundation prize in medicine (1989), the Rosenstiel award (1990) and the National Medal of Science (1990).