Gunther Stent

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Gunther Stent
EMLederberg GStent SBrenner JLederberg 1965 wiki.jpg
Born(1924-03-28)March 28, 1924
DiedJune 12, 2008(2008-06-12) (aged 84)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley

Gunther S. Stent (28 March 1924 – 12 June 2008[1]) was Graduate Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the early bacteriophage biologists, he was known also for his studies on the metabolism of bacteria and neurobiology of leeches, and for his writing on the history and philosophy of biology.

Early life and early career[edit]

He was born Günter Siegmund Stensch in Berlin. His surname was changed following his emigration to the US in 1940, where he went to live in Chicago. He received his BS (1945) and PhD (1948) from the University of Illinois.[2]

In 1949, Gunther Stent joined the small group of phage workers under Max Delbrück at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. This phage group was the incubator for many of the fundamental ideas of the newly emerging science of molecular biology. Informal discussions among these workers on the progress of their research led to a book by Stent entitled "Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses" (dedicated to Max Delbrück) which was a lucid account of the state of accomplishments in the field up to 1963.[3] Later, in his memoirs,[4] Stent described some of his activities and interactions with others of the group. These personal memories illustrated the unique intellectual spirit of the phage group during its early crucial years (1948–1950).


His introductory textbook, Molecular Genetics; an Introductory Narrative has been translated into Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

He was perhaps most generally known for his works on the progress of science, especially his 1969 lectures at Berkeley published as The Coming of the Golden Age.

Stent lectured in the molecular biology portion of Biology 1 at UC Berkeley. He had a very unusual lecture style; he introduced the major experiments that advanced the field of molecular biology in chronological order. It provided students with a unique understanding of molecular biology and experimentation.[citation needed]

Stent was at Oxford in 1953 when Watson and Crick made their announcement that they had "discovered the secret of life." Watson's book "The Double Helix" includes a picture of Stent with Watson and Crick.[citation needed]

Religious views[edit]

When asked "Do you believe in God?" Stent stated: "I don't know whether I do, even though I believe that I as a scientist ought to. But, by way of a paradox, I do believe, as Planck did, that all scientists have to believe in Him."[5]


Books on Molecular biology[edit]

  • Stent, G. S. (1998). Nazis, Women, and Molecular Biology: Memoirs of a Lucky Self-hater. Kensington, Calif: Briones Books.
  • Muller, K. J., Nicholls, J. G., & Stent, G. S. (1981). Neurobiology of the Leech. Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
  • Stent, G. S. (1971). Molecular Genetics; an Introductory Narrative. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.
    • Italian translation: Stent, G. S., & Stent, G. S. (1977). Genetica molecolare. Bologna, Italy: Zanichelli.
    • Russian translation: Stent, G. S., Calendar, R., & Stent, G. S. (1981). Molekuli︠a︡rnai︠a︡ genetika. Moskva: Izd-vo MIR.
    • Spanish translation: Stent, G. S. (1981). Genética molecular. Barcelona: Omega.
    • Japanese translation: Stent, G. S., Calendar, R., & Nagano, K. (1983). 分子遺伝学. Bunshi idengaku 岩波書店.
  • Stent, G. S. 1963. Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses. WH Freeman and Co., San Francisco, CA. OCLC 268815

Books edited[edit]

  • John Cairns, G. Stent, and J. D. Watson, eds. 2007. Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology (40th anniversary edition). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, ISBN 0-87969-800-4
  • Cairns, J., G. Stent, and J. D. Watson. 1992. Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology (expanded edition). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. OCLC 25872929
  • Cairns, J., G. Stent, and J. D. Watson. 1966. Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. OCLC 712215
    • German translation: Cairns, J., Geissler, E., Stent, G. S., Thomas-Petersein, G., & Watson, J. D. (1972). Phagen und die Entwicklung der Molekularbiologie (Phages and the origins of molecular biology, [German].) Hrsg. v. John Cairns.
  • Watson, J. D., & Stent, G. S. (1980). The Double Helix: a Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. New York: Norton.
  • Stent, G. S. (1978). Morality as a biological phenomenon: report of the Dahlem Workshop on Biology and Morals, Berlin 1977, November 28 to December 2. Life Sciences Research Report, 9. Berlin: Dahlem Konferenzen.

Books on Philosophy of science[edit]

  • Stent, G. S. (2002). 'Paradoxes of free will'. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, v. 92, pt. 6. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • Delbrück, M., & Stent, G. S. (1986). Mind from matter? an essay on evolutionary epistemology. Palo Alto, Calif: Blackwell Scientific Publications.
    • German translation: Delbrück, M., Fischer, E. P., & Stent, G. S. (1986). Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit über die Evolution des Erkennens. Hamburg: Rasch und Röhring Verlag.
    • Spanish translation: Delbrück, M., Stent, S. G., & Casadesús, J. (1989). Mente y materia ensayo de epistemología evolutiva. Alianza Universidad, 616. Madrid: Alianza.
  • Stent, G. S., & Ogawa, M. (1981). 真理>と悟り : 科学の形而上学と東洋哲学 Shinri to satori kagaku no keijijōgaku to tōyō tetsugaku. 朝日出版社, Tōkyō: Asahishuppansha.
  • Stent, G. S. (1980). Morality as a biological phenomenon the pre-suppositions of sociobiological research. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Stent, G. S. (1978). Paradoxes of progress. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.
    • Spanish translation: Stent, G. S. (1986). Las paradojas del progreso. Barcelona: Salvat.
  • Stent, G. S. (1969). The coming of the Golden Age; a view of the end of progress. Garden City, N.Y.: Published for the American Museum of Natural History [by] the Natural History Press.
    • French translation: Stent, G. S., & Bourdet, C. (1973). L'Avènement de l'âge d'or. L'humanité au carrefour de son évolution [Paris]: Fayard.


  1. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2008-06-16). "Gunther Stent, an Early Researcher in Molecular Biology, Is Dead at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  2. ^ Squire, Larry R., ed. (1996). The history of neuroscience in autobiography. Washington DC: Society for Neuroscience. p. 397. ISBN 0-12-660302-2.
  3. ^ Stent GS. 1963. Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses. WH Freeman and Co., San Francisco, CA. ASIN: B002OXAPMO
  4. ^ Stent GS. (1998). Nazis, Women, and Molecular Biology: Memoirs of a Lucky Self-hater. Kensington, Calif: Briones Books. ISBN 978-0-9664563-0-1 ISBN 0-9664563-0-0
  5. ^ Hargittai, Istva'n & Magdolna. 2006. Candid Science V: Conversations with Famous Scientists. Imperial College Press, p. 518

Further reading[edit]

  • Elvee, R. Q. (1992). The end of science? attack and defense. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.

External links[edit]