Friday, June 01, 2007

Genome of DNA Discoverer NOT Deciphered


Do you recognize the man in the picture? It's Friedrich Miescher, the Swiss biologist/biochemist who discovered DNA in 1869. So, when the NYT announced today that "Genome of DNA Discoverer Is Deciphered", I was really excited, despite the annoying (and incorrect) use of "decipher" to mean "sequenced". Just think! Sequencing the genomes of Victorian scientists is now in our grasp! Who will be next? Darwin? Maxwell? Faraday?

But alas, it isn't so. It's just Jim Watson's genome.

5 comments:

TR Gregory said...

Well put. I tried to clarify this in my post The discovery of DNA, but alas the New York Times seems not to visit my blog. :-)

Larry Moran said...

Let's see if I get this. We have press releases from science writers who don't know what it means to say "discoverer of DNA" and don't know the difference between sequencing a genome and deciphering a genome. Yet scientists are supposed to be taking lessons from these people on how to communicate science to the general public.

Isn't that strange?

john varga said...

Sad, but not surprising: a science headline and story being mangled to all Hell.

Jonathan Badger said...

Larry -- knowing the correct terminology and other background material is a separate skill from knowing how to communicate these facts to a general audience. While I certainly wish that Nicholas Wade (and other science journalists) would learn more science, this doesn't mean that journalists have nothing to teach scientists in return. The point isn't to convert scientists into journalists (or vice versa), it is to create people with the skills of both.

Jonathan Eisen said...

The first lesson of headline writing ---- bring people in. Correct the story later. Doesn't anybody here watch Fox News or read USA oday?