In his 1953 ‘What is Life?’ lecture at TCD, Schrödinger presented his ideas on how hereditary information could be encoded in a chemical structure, which he termed aperiodic crystal, in living cells. He then went on to pen a book in 1944 with the same title – What is Life?. As the story goes, Schrödinger’s book was cited by James Watson and Francis Crick as one of the inspirations that ultimately led to them unravelling the structure of DNA in 1953. Their breakthrough led to Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins being awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or Medicine in 1962.
And, Nobel Laureate Watson was also present at TCD last night to hear Venter give a 21st-century perspective on advancements in genetic research spanning the past 70 years, making the occasion even more profound.
As for Venter, he is known for being one of the leading scientists of the 21st century, as he has repeatedly pushed the boundaries in the field of genomics. The list of his scientific achievements are too long to mention here, but to give you an idea, he and his team at the Institute for Genomic Research (now part of J Craig Venter Institute), which he founded, decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, in 1995.