Detective story by Dan Graur on the origin of the term "Junk-DNA"

Very fascinating blog post by Dan Graur detailing some of his investigations into the origin and history of the term “Junk DNA”:

The Origin of the Term “Junk DNA”: A Historical Whodunnit (Second Edition)

As textbooks would have it, the term “junk DNA” was coined in 1972 by Susumu Ohno as part of his work on the role of gene and genome duplication. I met Susumu Ohno at a meeting in Crete many years ago, and the way I remember, he told me that he “deliberately” chose a “provocative term” to emphasize the “uselessness” of this DNA fraction. (Indeed, the term “junk” comes with a “semantic baggage” since it used as a synonym for heroin
and male genitalia—two terms that are verboten in polite company.) At a dinner, Ohno also told me (and other newbies) that rosé wine is produced by mixing red and white wines.

I no longer believe either of these historical “narratives.”

It all started with my obsession to read very thoroughly every article that I quote, instead of relying on indirect references. In this day and age, in which articles are signed by hundreds of authors, the vast majority of whom don’t even bother to read their “own” publications, I stand out like a nigella seed in mayonnaise. This disorder is probably due to my association with Mina Graur , who is a historian who only trusts “primary sources.” Indeed, so strong is her belief in primary sources, that I am quite certain she wouldn’t even trust a textbook description of the double helix—she would want to read Watson and Crick’s (1953) article, as well as their notebooks, correspondences, and preliminary drafts, and if possible interview each and every one associated with the lab in Cambridge including the janitors. What can I say? She does NOT trust “secondary” sources! (…more)


Thanks, that really is an interesting story!

Department of Terrestrial Magnetism is one of those places I think anyone would have been proud to work, for the name alone! xD

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This is helpful.