The development of photochemical theory through generations of scientists illustrates well the slow construction of science that Wald highlighted in his Nobel Lecture. In this view, each scientist contributes some part to the larger understanding of a phenomenon. Boll and Kühne knew in 1877 that rhodopsin was a photosensitive pigment in the retina with a reversible cycle of bleaching and regeneration. Following from these two, Hecht’s achievement was formalizing that cycle of bleaching and regeneration in photopigments almost 50 years after it had been first observed. And, after Hecht, George Wald, over the next 50 years, would fill in the mechanical and molecular details of that cycle.
Note: There is no science without a scientist, and so the author has attempted to maintain the essential truth of that—namely that at each stage of the scientific process there is a person looking at evidence and making judgments. However there is almost no personal biography, and much of the professional biography of each author has been abridged dramatically. In spite of this, the reader should keep in mind that each of these individuals were complicated people who share at least a job description. George Wald once said, “A scientist should be the happiest of men. Not that science isn't serious; but as everyone knows, being serious is one way of being happy, just as being gay is one way of being unhappy”. Each of these individuals had a scientific ethic, as well as a body of scientific work, and where possible, the author of each section has attempted to not forget the romanticism of the spirit of investigation, or the fact that many of these people were excited by a simple truth—after all, they were seeing things no one else had seen before. That majesty can be easy to forget if you are an outsider new to the complexities of visual physiology, but these scientists never forgot it.
Universalizing Photochemical Theories of Vision: Hecht, Wald, and the Marine Biological Laboratory
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Haldan Keffer Hartline, a Prize, and Two Accidents
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Roger Hanlon, Universal Camouflage, and Studying Vision at the MBL in the 21st Century
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