Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Born on this Day Mapping Life

21 November 2018

Mapping Life

Today’s genetics researchers navigate through DNA – the molecular instructions for life – almost as easily as we traverse a city aided by online maps. And the basic structure of their guiding maps, like ours, was drawn by pioneers exploring uncharted territory. Alfred Sturtevant – born on this day in 1891 – was one such molecular cartographer, and in 1913 made the first genetic map of a chromosome [tightly wound DNA bundles stored in our cells]. Having realised that genes [crucial DNA segments that code for particular functions] sit in order along chromosomes like stations on a train line, he devised a method for deducing the relative distance between them according to how frequently they were inherited together. Further research on fruit flies helped Sturtevant measure the distance between embryonic organs in a unit appropriately named the sturt, and he received the National Medal of Science in 1967 in recognition of a trailblazing career.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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