Jacques Monod

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Jacques Monod, 1965

Jacques Lucien Monod (9 February 191031 May 1976) was a French biologist who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1965, sharing it with François Jacob and Andre Lwoff "for their discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis".


  • The first scientific postulate is the objectivity of nature: nature does not have any intention or goal.
    • Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology by Jacques Monod, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1971, ISBN 0-394-46615-2
  • Anything found to be true of E. coli must also be true of elephants.
    • [1]
      • Monod adapted this aphorism from an expression of the same idea made in 1926 by the Dutch microbiologist Albert Kluyver: “From the elephant to butyric acid bacterium—it is all the same!”
  • The universe is not pregnant with life nor the biosphere with man. ... Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose.
  • If [the emergence of the human species] was unique, as may perhaps have been the appearance of life itself, then before it did appear its chances of doing so were infinitely slender. The universe was not pregnant with life nor the biosphere with man. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game.
    • Monod, Jacques (1971). Chance and Necessity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 180. ISBN 0-394-46615-2.
  • What I consider completely sterile is the attitude, for instance, of Bertalanffy who is going around and jumping around for years saying that all the analytical science and molecular biology doesn’t really get to interesting results; let’s talk in terms of general systems theory ... there cannot be anything such as general systems theory, it’s impossible. Or, if it existed, it would be meaningless.

From enzymatic adaptation to allosteric transitions (1965)

From enzymatic adaptation to allosteric transitions. Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1965
  • One day, almost exactly 25 years ago - it was at the beginning of the bleak winter of 1940 - I entered André Lwoff’s office at the Pasteur Institute. I wanted to discuss with him some of the rather surprising observations I had recently made.
    I was working then at the old Sorbonne, in an ancient laboratory that opened on a gallery full of stuffed monkeys. Demobilized in August in the Free Zone after the disaster of 1940, I had succeeded in locating my family living in the Northern Zone and had resumed my work with desperate eagerness. I interrupted work from time to time only to help circulate the first clandestine tracts. I wanted to complete as quickly as possible my doctoral dissertation, which, under the strongly biometric influence of Georges Teissier, I had devoted to the study of the kinetics of bacterial growth. Having determined the constants of growth in the presence of different carbohydrates, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to determine the same constants in paired mixtures of carbohydrates. From the first experiment on, I noticed that, whereas the growth was kinetically normal in the presence of certain mixtures (that is, it exhibited a single exponential phase), two complete growth cycles could be observed in other carbohydrate mixtures, these cycles consisting of two exponential phases separated by a complete cessation of growth.
    • Introduction
  • From then on I read avidly the first publications by the "phage-church", and when I entered Lwoff’s department at the Pasteur Institute in 1945, I was tempted to abandon enzyme adaptation in order to join the church myself and work with bacteriophage.
  • There is in science, however, quite a gap between belief and certainty. But would one ever have the patience to wait and to establish the certainty if the inner conviction were not already there?

Quotes about Jacques Monod

  • We might begin with Jacques Monod. Monod was a great figure whose scientific work I much admire, and was, essentially, the creator of modern molecular biology. His reflections on ethics, however, were of a different quality. (...) Monod's conclusions stem from his opinion that the only other possible way to account for the origin of morals - apart from ascribing them to human invention - is by animistic or anthropomorphic accounts such as are given in many religions. And it is indeed true that 'for mankind as a whole all religions have been intertwined with the anthropomorphic view of the deity as a father, friend or potentate to whom men must do service, pray, etc.' (M. R. Cohen, 1931:112). This aspect of religion I can as little accept as can Monod and the majority of natural scientists. It seems to me to lower something far beyond our comprehension to the level of a slightly superior manlike mind.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit (1988), Ch. 4: The Revolt of Instinct and Reason
  • Jacques Monod... published a paper entitled "Genetic Regulatory Mechanisms in the Synthesis of Protein." Using bacteria as a model system, they made the remarkable discovery that genes can be regulated—that is, they can be switched on and off like a water faucet.
  • Jacob and Monod found that in bacteria, genes are switched on and off by other genes. This led them to distinguish between effector genes and regulatory genes. Effector genes encode effector proteins... which mediate specific cellular functions. Regulatory genes encode proteins called regulatory proteins, which switch the effector genes on or off.
    • Eric Kandel, In Search of Memory (2006)
  • Jacob and Monod not only outlined a theory of gene regulation, they also discovered the first regulators of gene transcription. These regulators come in two forms—repressors, genes that encode the regulatory proteins that shut genes off, and as later work showed, activators, genes that encode the regulatory proteins that turn genes on.
    • Eric Kandel, In Search of Memory (2006)
  • In the Jacob-Monod model, signals from a cell's environment activate regulatory proteins that switch on the genes encoding particular proteins. This led [Philip] Goelet and me to wonder whether the crucial step in switching on long-term memory in sensitization might involve similar signals and similar gene regulatory proteins.
Wikipedia has an article about:
  1. Friedmann, Herbert Claus (2004). "From 'Butyribacterium' to 'E. coli' : An Essay on Unity". Biochemistry Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 47 (1): 47–66. DOI:10.1353/pbm.2004.0007.
  2. Davies, Paul (2010). The Eerie Silence. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-547-13324-9.