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Molecular Biology

  Molecular biology is the study of living processes in terms of molecular interactions, and is a modern synthesis of the fields of biochemistry, biophysics, genetics and structural chemistry. In the 1930s, interest began to be aroused in biological macromolecules with the discovery of the structure of wool fibre by W.T. Astbury. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed the double helix model for the structure of DNA, paving the way for the study of molecular specificity and the molecular basis of individual variation. The idea that differences between species and individuals have a chemical basis had first been suggested in 1909 by E.T. Reichert. It was demonstrated in the 1930s when emerging immunological techniques showed differences in blood groups between humans.

Modern molecular biology is concerned chiefly with the transfer of information from genes to proteins and with the storage of genetic information; vital to this was the elucidation of the genetic code, which allows the genetic information to be ‘read’ in terms of the proteins for which it codes. The field represents the dominance of the mechanistic school of thought in modern biology and is rapidly growing in importance as the techniques available for genetic manipulation develop. RB

See also biotechnology; genetic engineering.Further reading Bruce Alberts, The Molecular Biology of the Cell.



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