'From the Sidelines' describes the making of a scientific revolution


Lotte Streisinger's personal history reveals insights about pioneering molecular biologists

EUGENE, Ore. -- A new book about the birth of molecular biology provides an insider's view of the greats -- from Max Delbrück and Salvador Luria, the two "enemy aliens" who started the Phage Course at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island; to James Watson and Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA; to the founders of the UO Institute of Molecular Biology.

"From the Sidelines" by Lotte Streisinger recently was published by the University of Oregon Press.

Streisinger escorts her readers behind the scenes as a scientific revolution unfolds. She lived this history during her marriage to George Streisinger, a pioneering molecular biologist and co-founder of the UO Institute of Molecular Biology.

Her gentle humor warms the book, which is written so that nonscientists can share in the camaraderie and excitement that inspired creation of the UO institute. The book includes epilogues written by institute members Brian Matthews and Peter von Hippel, whose first-hand accounts bring the reader current on recent developments.

The slender, elegantly understated volume contains many photographs and original linocuts by the author. It closes with a reprint of an article by Streisinger's editor, Tom Hager, which originally appeared in the university's magazine, Oregon Quarterly (formerly Old Oregon).

George Streisinger, who died in 1984, is renowned for developing zebrafish cloning. He was the first to realize that a small aquarium fish (Brachydanio rerio) could provide a model system for vertebrate developmental biology. Many of the strains of zebrafish produced in the Streisinger lab still are alive and well in labs around the globe. Streisinger's earlier research made major contributions toward deciphering the genetic code, understanding the nature of frameshift mutations, and the structure of the T4 phage genome.

Lotte Streisinger is a Eugene-based artist known for her work in clay and her dedication to the arts community. She co-hosts "Visible City," a regular feature on KLCC's Northwest Passage. She founded Eugene's Saturday Market and has helped to administer the placement of art in a number of public buildings. Locally, she chaired the juries which selected the major artworks for the Eugene Airport and Eugene's Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

On campus, she guided the selection of art for some of the largest construction projects in the university's history, including the Knight Library expansion and the university's trend-setting science complex. UO scientists were involved in the design process integrating old and new buildings, which were intentionally constructed so that informal contact among scientists from a variety of disciplines--and neighboring artists in nearby Lawrence Hall--might foster collaborative projects. The complex was completed in 1990, and their foresight has contributed to a robust sense of community among UO scientists and to the natural evolution of new interdisciplinary areas of inquiry at the university such as nanoscience.

Lotte Streisinger's sure, imaginative touch is visible throughout the UO science complex, from the starry ceiling of Willamette Hall's soaring Paul Olum Atrium to the expanses of colorful quilt-like patterns inset in Science Walk, the network of sidewalks connecting the science buildings. Surprising gargoyles, sculptures of famous scientists and artistic interpretations of scientific symbols reinforce the interconnectedness of science and art. The complex includes Streisinger Hall, which is named for her husband.

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