Jun 29

‘What is Life? – A 21st Century Perspective’ with Dr. Craig Venter

Craig Venter What is Life Dublin City of Science



Dr. J. Craig Venter, a leading scientist renowned for his contributions to genomic research, will participate in one of the greatest science events in the 21st Century when he delivers a lecture titled “What is Life? – A 21st century perspective” on Thursday, 12th July in Trinity College Dublin as part of the Science in the City festival which aims to provide an opportunity for Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) 2012 delegates to engage with the Irish public.

The lecture will update the Irish event that inspired the discovery of the structure of DNA.  In February 1943, one of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th Century, Erwin Schrödinger, delivered a seminal lecture, titled “What is Life?”, under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, in Trinity College, Dublin.

The lecture presented far-sighted ideas on how hereditary information could be encoded in a chemical structure (aperiodic crystal) in living cells.  Schrödinger’s book (1944) of the same title is considered a scientific classic.  The book was cited by James Watson and Francis Crick as one of the inspirations which ultimately led them to unravel the structure of DNA in 1953, a breakthrough which won them the Nobel Prize.  Such was the significance of the lecture at the time, that the then Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Éamon de Valera, attended the lecture and an account of it featured in the 5 April 1943, issue of Time magazine.

Recent advances in genomics and synthetic biology mean that it is now timely to reconsider the fundamental question posed by Schrödinger 70 years ago.

Commenting about the event, Dr. Craig Venter, said “I am honored to be giving an updated version of Schrodinger’s “What is Life” lecture. This lecture and subsequent book have figured prominently in my thinking and direction as a scientist. I have reread the book numerous times and still today it stimulates my thinking on the definition of life.  I don’t think Schrodinger would have been surprised by our work in constructing the first synthetic cell.”

Professor Patrick Cunningham, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government, added, “It is fitting that we mark the honour of Euroscience Open Forum 2012 taking place in Ireland by recreating one of the most important milestones in Irish scientific history.  Just as Crick and Watson were inspired by Schrödinger’s insight, we believe that Dr. Craig Venter will provide the vision for the next generation of scientists to make a breakthrough of similar impact.  The lecture will provide a lasting legacy for the conference and will be the most popular event during the Science in the City Festival.”

The lecture will be open to 400 ESOF 2012 delegates, members of the general public and international media.  In order to attend the lecture please apply here

The ESOF 2012 ‘Science in the City Festival’ will feature a wide range of events across Dublin consisting of photograpy  and art exhibitions, several theatre pieces, film festivals, tours, trails and treasure hunts, science buskers, large-scale interactive installations, experiments, public talks, debates and workshops.  For more info on the festival events and tickets please see www.dublinscience2012.ie or browse the festival programme book here

ESOF 2012, the largest general science event in Europe, takes place in the Dublin Convention Centre between 11th – 15th July. 5,000 delegates are expected to join this global gathering of Nobel laureates, leading researchers, policy makers and business leaders.   Across the four days there will be over 120 science, careers and science-to-business sessions, with 400 plus speakers, including 23 keynotes speakers and five Nobel Laureates.  Speakers include Jules Hoffmann, Rolf Dieter Heuer, Marcus Du Sautoy and James Watson.  View the ESOF 2012 programme here

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