Seymour Benzer was born in New York City in 1921. His parents were immigrants who had come to the United States some 10 years earlier from the Jewish shtetl of Sochaczew near Warsaw. A true scientific romantic, Benzer was a pioneer in two different fields of biology: the initial studies of the nature of the gene in the early days of molecular biology, and later the launching of a new field that applied mutant induction and other genetic approaches to the study of behaviour. In the century that began with the rediscovery of Mendelian units of heredity and ended with the sequencing of the human genome, Benzer's work set two milestones. His early work in bacteriophages on the fine structure of the gene defined a pivotal moment in the transition from classical to molecular genetics. His later work in the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, launched an entirely new genetic strategy with which to tackle the complexity of behaviour.
- This publication is © 2012 The Royal Society