Birthday: February 9, 1910
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Jacques Lucien Monod
Born in: Paris
Famous as: Biologist
Spouse/Ex-: Odette Bruhl
father: Lucien Monod
mother: Charlotte (Sharlie) MacGregor Todd
Died on: May 31, 1976
place of death: Cannes, France
awards: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1965)
Legion of Honour ForMemRS (1968)
Who was Jacques Monod?
Jacques Lucien Monod was a French biologist who received the ‘Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine’ in 1965 along with another French biologist François Jacob and French microbiologist Andre Lwoff for their discoveries regarding genetic regulation of enzyme and synthesis of virus. Monod and François Jacob suggested the presence of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), that acts as a courier and convey genetic information from the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the carrier of genetic instructions, to the ribosome, which is the protein synthesizer of cell. The most notable and significant finding of Monod that he worked together with Jacob was perceiving of a specific class of genes that regulate the activities of other genes by affecting the synthesis of mRNA. They developed the Jacob-Monod operon model that helps in elucidating the way genes are regulated. The duo also showed the effects of balance and imbalance between regulator genes and structural genes in a normal cell. He received several honours and distinctions that include ‘Montyon Physiology Prize’ and the ‘Charles Léopold Mayer Prize’ from the ‘Acadèmie des Sciences’, Paris in 1955 and 1962 respectively; and the ‘Louis Rapkine Medal’ in London in 1958. The military decorations conferred on him include Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre in 1945. In 1968 he became an elected ‘Foreign Member of the Royal Society’ (ForMemRS).
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on February 9, 1910, in Paris, to Lucien Monod and his wife Charlotte (Sharlie) MacGregor Todd. His father, a French Huguenot, was a painter and his mother was an American from Milwaukee.
He was intellectually and artistically inspired by his father, who was an avid reader of Darwin and probably this infused an interest in little Jacob in the field of biology.
In his childhood he used to involve himself in several activities including rock climbing, searching for fossils, sailing yachts and dissecting cats.
He completed his secondary education from the lycée de Cannes and thereafter in October 1928 he enrolled at the ‘Faculte des Sciences’ at the ‘University of Paris’ (‘Sorbonne’) to study natural sciences.
In 1931 he earned his Science Degree and began to pursue a Ph.D. He received a fellowship to work at the ‘University of Strasbourg’ with French biologist Edouard Chatton.
He was inducted as assistant professor of zoology at the ‘Faculte des Sciences’ and from 1932 to 1934 he remained engrossed in investigating the evolution of life.
He earned a Rockefeller fellowship in 1936 to study genetics at the ‘California Institute of Technology’ (Caltech) and Professor of Genetics Boris Ephrussi took him to the institute. At Caltech he worked on Drosophila genetics for a year in the lab of American geneticist, biologist and embryologist Thomas Hunt Morgan.
Though his tenure in Caltech was not that rewarding he impressed the local residents with his musical talent and was also offered a job in the local orchestra. However he returned to Paris giving up his musical career options in order to complete his Ph.D.
In his doctoral work he examined bacterial growth on sugar mixtures and detailed the sequential application of two or more sugars. The term diauxie was coined by him to mean the repeated observations of two specific bacterial growth phases developed in two sugars. He earned his Ph.D. in Natural sciences in1941.
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Monod was a political activist and played an active role in the ‘French Resistance’ during the ‘Second World War’. In course of time he became the chief of staff of operations for the ‘French Forces of the Interior’. In pursuit of Allied landings, he made arrangements for mail interceptions, bombing railroads and also dropping of weapons through parachute.
Post liberation he was inducted in the renowned ‘Pasteur Institute’ of France as Laboratory Director in the department of Andre Lwoff. In 1954 he became the Director of the ‘Cell Biochemistry Department’.
During 1958 Monod, Jacob and American biochemist Arthur Beck Pardee were involved in an experiment which became famous as the ‘PaJaMo’. This experiment and later research revealed that commencement of protein synthesis from a gene can take place almost immediately as it enters an E.coli cell. Earlier theories regarding interpretation of genetic data into proteins were focused on ribosomes.
In 1959, he became a Professor of the Chemistry of Metabolism at the ‘University of Paris’ (‘Sorbonne’), where he was once a student.
In 1961 Monod and Jacob worked on the mechanics responsible for genetic data transfer and the controlling pathways that exist in bacterial cell that control the activities and synthesis of macromolecules. These experiments led to a new theory of an existence of another species of RNA, which is the messenger RNA (mRNA).
Monod and Jacob earned reputation for their research on E.coli Lac operon that encodes protein required for the transfer and breakdown of sugar lactose. They showed a model that elucidated the way levels of some of the cell proteins are controlled. Their model suggests that protein development is restricted when a DNA- binding protein or a RNA-binding protein i.e., a repressor, encoded by a regulatory gene, binds to a segment of DNA i.e., an operator.
Their findings convey that the regulator genes are the controlling genes that regulate the activities of the structural genes. They further suggested that the balance between regulator genes and structural genes in a normal cell permits it to adjust in different conditions while an imbalance can result in development of new enzymes that can be either beneficial or cause harm to the cell.
In 1967 he was appointed a Professor at the ‘Collège de France’.
He advocated the view that life on earth is the result of an unusual chemical accident, a unique event that took place, which would never be repeated. His views on the evolution of life interpreted as the result of natural processes by "pure chance" was expressed in his book ‘Chance and Necessity: Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology’.
He became the Director of the ‘Pasteur Institute’ in 1971.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the ‘Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine’ in 1965 together with François Jacob and Andre Lwoff.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1938 Monod married Odette Bruhl, an archaeologist who later became the curator of the ‘Guimet Museum’.
In 1939 their twin sons, Philippe and Olivier were born. Though Monod never influenced his children to pursue science, one of his sons became a geologist while the other became a physicist.
Apart from being a biologist he was a gifted musician and his favourite pastimes included music and sailing.
On May 31, 1976, he passed away after suffering from leukaemia. His last words were "Je cherche a comprendre" i.e., “I am trying to understand”. He was interred in Cannes’ ‘Cimetière du Grand Jas’ on the French Riviera.