Science 2000 March 10; 287: 1777-1782. Published: 2000.03.09
Eric S. Lander and Robert A. WeinbergRead Manuscript
Without doubt, the greatest achievement in biology over the past millennium has been the elucidation of the mechanism of heredity. Heredity is surely the strangest of physiological processes: Organisms encapsulate instructions for creating a member of their species in their gametes, these instructions are passed on to a fertilized egg, and then they unfold spontaneously to give rise to offspring. The ancient Greeks puzzled over these remarkable phenomena. Hippocrates imagined that instructional particles were gathered together from throughout the adult body, having been shaped by experience, while Aristotle believed that the instructions were constant and inherent in the gametes. But philosophers could do no more than speculate for the ensuing 2000 years, because there was no way to probe the physical nature of these instructions.