First known definition of systems biology?

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Eliot Meyerowitz recently sent Marc Kirschner a copy of an editorial by James Bonner in the American Institute of Biological Sciences bulletin from October 1960 — that’s right, almost 50 years ago — that comprises both a definition of systems biology and a plea for its creation.  Teaser quote:

” We have seen enough to convince me that there is one great class of biological problems which, if followed to its ultimate lair, turns out to be biochemistry…. It appears to me that beyond this stratum of molecular biology, or above it, as some of my friends would say, is a second stratum; a stratum which contains problems of strategy, of programming, of how to use the various and ingenious molecular devices invented by creatures to make a creature or a society. To this class of problems I give the name “systems biology.””

I’m sorry, but this is behind a particularly egregious paywall: $14 for a single page!  We have a framed copy on the wall in the Department; if your institution doesn’t happen to subscribe to the AIBS bulletin, I recommend taking the time to read it when you next stop by.

Oh, and if you can find an earlier definition of systems biology please send it along!

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