Reflections on the Origin, Meaning, and Future of Systems Biology

M. Santillán
2008 Mathematical Modelling of Natural Phenomena  
The term molecular biology is so familiar nowadays that nobody questions its meaning. However, there was no consensus in the beginning about that, and even some people disputed that such a term corresponded to a new science. For instance, Kendrew wrote in a paper on the origin of molecular biology [4] that: "Biochemists point out that molecular biology is their own field, in a strict sense of the words, and sometimes deride the assumption of the phrase as a title by a group whose members were
more » ... hose members were ignorant of biochemistry and indeed often hostile to it. . . One distinguished biochemist has referred to molecular biology as the practice of biochemistry without license." On the other hand, molecular biologists themselves were by no means unanimous about the nature of their subject. According to Astbury [1], who introduced one of the first definitions, "molecular biology is concerned particularly with the forms of biological molecules and with the evolution, exploitation and ramification of these forms in the ascent to higher and higher levels of organization. Molecular biology is predominantly three-dimensional and structural -which does not mean, however, that it is merely a refinement of morphology. It must at the same time inquire into genesis and function." Interestingly, this definition does not even mention biological information or genetics. However, by the time the term molecular biology had become popular, in the 1950's, and many research institutes and university departments had been organized under that name, its meaning had evidently widened to include also molecular genetics [9] . And, as Kendrew points out [4], though molecular geneticists were interested in such matters as the DNA double helix, "the features of that structure that had been important to them had not been geometrical so much as topological:
doi:10.1051/mmnp:2008057 fatcat:wbcxfxlty5fo5afumeyywhghni