Howard Gest Papers

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    A Historical Account of the Origin, Evolution, and Demise of NASA’s Oxymoronic “Astrobiology”/ The “Arsenic Monster” of Mono Lake/ and a Modest Proposal to Educate Dabblers in Microbiology Research
    (2012-01-30) Gest, Howard
    This essay presents a select Time Line for early speculations on “extraterrestrial life” and attempts to obtain experimental evidence for past or present life on the Moon and Mars. To date, there is no credible evidence for “life elsewhere,” even the simplest forms (microbes). Nevertheless, NASA continues to trumpet “astrobiology,” an oxymoron that suggests or implies that life has actually been found beyond Earth. NASA exploits the fallacious notion that the existence of terrestrial bacteria able to live under “extreme” chemical or physical conditions (“extremophiles”) provides evidence for “astrobiology.” In December 2010, NASA announced, in a massive publicity event, that their grantees isolated a bacterium from sediment mud of Mono Lake (CA) that defies basic biochemical principles of all known forms of life on Earth in that arsenic replaces phosphorus in its DNA and other P–containing essential metabolites. The so-called evidence for the “Arsenic Monster” [a presumed harbinger for “astrobiology”] has been strongly criticized and is being rigorously tested by independent investigators. These include Rosie Redfield and her collaborators who hope to submit their work to Science in early 2012.
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    History of the Origin, Evolution, and Demise of NASA’s Oxymoronic “Astrobiology” and a Modest Proposal to Educate Dabblers in Microbiology Research
    (2011-12-12) Gest, Howard
    This essay presents a select Time Line for early speculations on “extraterrestrial life” and attempts to obtain experimental evidence for past or present life on the Moon and Mars. To date, there is no credible evidence for “life elsewhere,” even the simplest forms (microbes). Nevertheless, NASA continues to trumpet “astrobiology,” an oxymoron that suggests or implies that life has actually been found beyond Earth. NASA exploits the fallacious notion that the existence of terrestrial bacteria able to live under “extreme” chemical or physical conditions (“extremophiles”) provides evidence for “astrobiology.” In December 2010, NASA announced, in a massive publicity event, that their grantees isolated a bacterium from sediment mud of Mono Lake (CA) that defies basic biochemical principles of all known forms of life on Earth in that arsenic replaces phosphorus in its DNA and other P–containing essential metabolites. The so-called evidence for the “Arsenic Monster” [a presumed harbinger for “astrobiology”] has been strongly criticized and is being rigorously tested by independent investigators.
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    Publications of Howard Gest, 1942-2012
    (2011-11-16) Gest, Howard
    A complete listing of Howard Gest's publications from 1942 to 2012.
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    Retrospections on a Career in Microbiology, Biochemistry, Radiochemistry and the History & Philosophy of Science
    (2011-08-15) Gest, Howard
    This retrospective memoir by Howard Gest covers highlights of his career in several experimental sciences (microbiology, biochemistry, radiochemistry) and in the history & philosophy of science. These interests developed through serendipic events and associations with several mentors who were outstanding scientists. Photographs are included and references are given to key publications.
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    On the Origin. Evolution, and Demise of an Oxymoron: “astrobiology.”
    (2011-07-06) Gest, Howard
    This essay presents a select Time Line for early speculations on “extraterrestrial life” and attempts to obtain experimental evidence for past or present life on the Moon and Mars. To date, there is no credible evidence for “life elsewhere,” even the simplest forms (microbes). Nevertheless, NASA continues to trumpet “astrobiology,” an oxymoron that suggests or implies that life has actually been found beyond Earth. NASA exploits the fallacious notion that the existence of terrestrial bacteria able to live under “extreme” chemical or physical conditions (“extremophiles”) provides evidence for “astrobiology.” In December 2010, NASA announced, in a massive publicity event, that their grantees isolated a bacterium from sediment mud of Mono Lake (CA) that defies basic biochemical principles of all known forms of life on Earth in that arsenic replaces phosphorus in its DNA and other P–containing essential metabolites. The so-called evidence for the “Arsenic Monster” [a presumed harbinger for “astrobiology”] has been strongly criticized and will soon be rigorously tested by independent investigators.
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    The July 1945 Szilard Petition on the Atomic Bomb Memoir by a Signer in Oak Ridge
    (2001-02-01) Gest, Howard
    Howard Gest was a member of the "Charles Coryell Chemistry Group" of the Manhattan (Atomic Bomb) Project at the University of Chicago and in the "secret city" of oak Ridge (TN). Research of the group was focused on characterization of the numerous radioactive isotopes created during uranium fission, development of a process for chemical isolation of plutonium, and preparation of gigantic amounts of radioactive barium required by Los Alamos physicists. This memoir describes activities in Oak Ridge and documents the history of the ill-fated secret Szilard Petition addressed to President Truman. In essence, the petition requested him to refrain from approving actual use of atomic bombs on inhabited cities if at all possible; alternatives for ending the war with Japan were suggested, e.g., demonstration of the devastating effects of an A-bomb on an uninhabited island. Gest and about 150 other scientists signed the petition, which remained classified as a "secret document" for about 10 years.
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    A Panorama of the Emergence of Modern Microbiology: 1870’s—1950’s [which includes “A Time Line of Some Basic Discoveries in Microbiology/Biochemistry,1928-1955]
    (2011-01-27) Gest, Howard
    This SUPPLEMENT amplifies several aspects of the historic development of microbiological research from the 1870's to ca. 1955. During this period, great advances were made in understanding basic characteristics of a large number of physiologically diverse microorganisms that grow and persist under widely different natural conditions. Thousands of species were isolated in pure culture, and deposited in culture collections, making them available for detailed study of their genetic and biochemical processes, as well as their roles in the cyclic transformations of elements on the Earth. The complexity and basic features of microbial ecology were also discovered. Major research contributions of a number of leading microbiologists are reviewed.
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    REFLECTIONS ON SCIENTIFIC LIVES AND THE DECLINE IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES IN MICROBIOLOGY
    (2010-09-17) Gest, Howard
    This essay addresses the "life styles" of contemporary academic scientists in microbiology and related fields (especially molecular biology). Owing to increasing commercialism of scientific discoveries, the relentless pressure to obtain grants for research, and the typical traditional academic obligations, they apparently spend little, if any, time in exposing students to the rich history of how outstanding scientists of diverse backgrounds and personality solved important basic problems in microbiology. This is clearly manifest in current 1,000 page encyclopedic textbooks which devote minuscule space to historical perspectives. Thus, in the U.S.A. as well as other countries, we can expect a trend in many universities to emphasize "technoscience" as a major "life style" in certain biological sciences, with unknown prospects for exploration of the many basic biological phenomena that are still unsolved.
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    Discovery and Exploration of the Microbial Universe: 1665 to "Modern Times"
    (2010-04-21) Gest, Howard
    Recent research has shown that the first observation and published depiction of a microorganism (Mucor) was made by Robert Hooke (1665), whose microscope expertise facilitated the later discovery of bacteria by Antoni v. Leeuwenhoek. In 1835, Agostino Bassi proved that an infectious disease of animals was caused by a microbe. Forty years later, Ferdinand Cohn's research ushered in the age of "modern microbiology," with major contributions from Robert Koch, Martinus Beijerinck, and Sergei Winogradsky. The present essay also highlights a number of subsequent investigators who discovered fundamental aspects of microbial (and virus) growth and biochemical mechanisms. Nowadays, scientists whose research provided the basis of microbial molecular biology are sometimes recognized by single-line entries in textbook tables.
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    Homage to Ferdinand J. Cohn, Driving Force in the Emergence of Modern Microbiology
    (2010-01-13) Gest, Howard
    This essay reviews the life and career of German scientist Ferdinand Cohn (1828-1898). A botanist by training, Cohn was a major force in establishing bacteriology/microbiology as a scientific discipline. He was a mentor of bacteriologist Robert Koch (Nobel Laureate 1905) and had significant interactions with Charles Darwin. Cohn was important in demolishing the erroneous idea of “spontaneous generation” of living organisms and was a pioneer in advancing concepts of microbial taxonomy.
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    Reflections on Scientific Lives: A microbiologist/biochemist surveys the changing scene
    (2009-06-23) Gest, Howard
    Current microbiology/biochemistry textbooks are encyclopedic tomes which include little information about the scientists in academia and non-profit research institutes who erected the extensive framework of our current knowledge. This essay discusses the dubious notion that a new major kind of “scientific life” is emerging in biotechnology…a blend of unfettered academic (“basic”) research and industrial (“applied”) research. Examples are given of outstanding academic scientists whose creativity in seeking new basic knowledge of cell (and virus) growth, biochemistry, and genetics led to the major tools of the applied biotechnology industry.
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    Historical Adventures in Scientific Discovery: Microbiology/Biochemistry
    (2009-02-12) Gest, Howard
    Recent textbooks are generally deficient in respect to the history of major discoveries in microbiology/biochemistry. These "Historical Adventures" focus on the backgrounds and contributions of a number of relatively unknown pioneering investigators, as well as some of the familiar "giants." This publication is part of "An Experiment in Scientific Biography". A companion part, "Associations with distinguished scientists ..." can be accessed at https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/2022/1083/1/Gestfinal.pdf.
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    Facts and Myths about Authentic Bacteria/Lessons from Pioneers of Microbiology
    (2009-01-07) Gest, Howard
    A commentary on sundry aspects of bacteria in the natural world and in the laboratory, touching on: diversity, nutrition, the species concept, classification and taxonomy, “computer bacteroids,” the “unculturability” myth, “astrobiology.” extremophiles, and Gest’s Postulates
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    The Modern Myth of “Unculturable” Bacteria/ Scotoma of contemporary microbiology
    (None, 2008-07-04) Gest, Howard
    Critique of the myth of unculturability of most microbes living in nature
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    Howard Gest Special Collection: Associations with outstanding scientists during a research career in microbiology and biochemistry
    (2006-10) Gest, Howard
    Associations with distinguished scientists during an academic career of over 60 years. Memorabilia include various research papers, books, correspondence, photographs and obituaries.