HOW OUR LIMBS ARE PATTERNED LIKE THE FRENCH FLAG

Lewis Wolpert [10.14.07]
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"I've spoken to these eggs many times and they make it quite clear...they are not a human being."

HOW OUR LIMBS ARE PATTERNED LIKE THE FRENCH FLAG

Lewis Wolpert

In this EdgeVideo, embryologist Lewis Wolpert talks about how cells divide and introduces the French Flag problem.

"What I'm concerned with is how you develop", he says. "I know that you all think about it perpetually that you come from one single cell of a fertilized egg. I don't want to get involved in religion but that is not a human being. I've spoken to these eggs many times and they make it quite clear ... they are not a human being. The cells divide and the question I'm going to deal with a little bit here...how do the cells know what to do. So, how do they end up looking like ... you? It is amazing that you come from one single cell. I'm sorry to give you a lesson in embryology but you should know how you develop."

LEWIS WOLPERT is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London. His research interests are in the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He has presented science on both radio and TV for five years, was Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science. His last book is Six Impossible Things To Do Before Breakfast.

Lewis Wolpert's Edge Bio Page
 


This is the second in a series of Edge Videos of "table-top experiments" presented as part of the 2007 Edge/Serpentine collaboration during Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon in London, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist under the leadership of Director Julia Peyton-Jones. Edge presenters were zoologist Seirian Sumner, archeologist Timothy Taylor, evolutionary biologist Armand Leroi, psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, geneticist Steve Jones, physicist Neil Turok, embryologist Lewis Wolpert, and psycholgist Steven Pinker and playwright Marcy Kahan. The live event was featured at the Serpentine as part of the Edge/Serpentine collaboration: "What Is Your Formula? Your Equation? Your Algorithm? Formulae For the 21st Century."

Writing in Sueddeutsche Zeitung ("Short Answers To Big Questions"), Feuilleton editor Andrian Kreye noted that:

The experiment is not only represents a collaboration by Brockman and Obrist’s of their own work; it is also a continuation of a movement that began in the '60s on America’s East Coast. John Cage brought together young artists and scientists for symposia and seminars to see what what would happen in the interaction of big thinkers from different fields. The resulting dialogue, which at the time seemed abstract and esoteric, can today be regarded as the forerunner to interdisciplinary science and the digital culture.