He Spent 17 Years in a Room Filled with Flies

Thomas Hunt Morgan discovered how genetic traits are inherited

Thomas Hunt Morgan discovered how genetic traits are inherited

American biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan was born on September 25, 1866.  As a child, he was fascinated by fossils and bird eggs.  As an adult, he became fascinated by experimental zoology, seeking physical and chemical explanations for the way organisms developed.  He rejected Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection in favor of the possibility of biological evolution, and spent years looking for a mutation that could be inherited.

In 1910, Morgan was surprised to find a single white-eyed male among a swarm of red-eyed fruit flies.  When he bred the white-eyed male with a red-eyed female, all of the offspring were red-eyed.  However, a second generation produced some additional white-eyed males!  Morgan realized that hereditary traits were carried on specific chromosomes, and that some traits were sex-linked.  He proposed that chromosomes contain collections of smaller units called genes.  (“Gene” is derived from the Greek genesis for “birth” and genos for “origin.”)

Morgan and his students spent 17 years in Columbia University’s “Fly Room” – a 16 x 23-foot room described as “cramped, dusty, smelly and cockroach ridden” – where they studied thousands of fruit flies and their successive generations.  One of his students developed the first genetic map in 1913, and their discoveries formed the basis for modern genetics.

Morgan was awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work.  The Division of Biology that he established at the California Institute of Technology has produced seven Nobel Prize winners.  Today, the “Morgan is the unit for measuring distances along chromosomes.

While genetics studies specific genes and their role in inheritance, the more complex field of genomics studies an organism’s entire genetic makeup, including its interaction with non-genetic factors.

Agilent is a leading provider of genomics solutions, including microarrays, reagents, instruments and software.  Agilent recently introduced SureGuide, the first in a new series of kits to advance genome editing and synthetic biology.


For more information go to:

Filed Under: All, Life Sciences
Tags: , , , ,

Agilent at the Movies! (Television too!)

Agilent instruments appear in many popular movies and TV shows

Agilent instruments appear in many popular movies and TV shows

Back in 1939, one of Hewlett-Packard’s first customers was the Walt Disney Company.  Disney bought eight HP 200B audio oscillators for $71.50 each.  Disney engineers used the instruments to set music and sound levels in the 12 specially equipped theaters that screened the 1940 animated movie “Fantasia.”

After Agilent was spun off from HP in 1999, its bioanalytical equipment was regularly featured on the television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” though the Agilent logo was hidden.  (CSI’s set designer was a former FBI forensic scientist.)

Agilent instruments have been placed in movies such as “The Incredible Hulk,” “Transformers,” and “Spiderman.”  In “The Avengers,” the workbench of Tony Stark (Iron Man) features several Agilent (now Keysight) electronic measurement instruments, including an Agilent U1600 series handheld oscilloscope, an Agilent InfiniiVision 7000 Series oscilloscope and an Agilent 34970A Data Acquisition/Data Logger Switch Unit.

The measuremenTest blog has some photos here.

These hidden goodies, also known as “Easter eggs,” work both ways.  Blogger David L. Jones discovered that the Agilent (now Keysight) 3000X/2000X series oscilloscope contains a hidden reference to the popular television show “Lost.”  After entering the last three numbers of the show’s famous number sequence (16, 23 and 42), a countdown of 108 minutes begins.  At the end of the countdown, just as it happened in the show’s “Swan” DHARMA station, a mysterious set of hieroglyphics suddenly appears!

The Electronics Engineering Video Blog has a YouTube video here.

Where else have you seen Agilent and Keysight equipment on your movie or television screen?


For more information go to:

Filed Under: All, Chemical Analysis, Electronic Measurement, Life Sciences
Tags: , , , ,

The Importance of Intellectual Property

The inventor of the Thermos never received any profits or royalties

The inventor of the Thermos never received any profits or royalties

September 20 was the birthday of Sir James Dewar, who was born in 1842.  The Scottish chemist is noteworthy for inventing the Thermos.  This insulated storage vessel helps keep contents both hot and cool, and is used by everyone from scientists to coffee drinkers to school children.

Notice I did not say that Dewar is famous or even remembered for inventing the Thermos.  In fact, he never received a cent of royalties for his invention.

Dewar was involved in the race to achieve absolute zero.  In 1892, he took two nested chambers and removed the air between them, creating a vacuum.  The inner flask was able to maintain a constant temperature, which helped Dewar become the first person to liquefy hydrogen gas.

Unfortunately, Dewar never patented his discovery.  Instead, two German glassblowers named Burger and Aschenbrenner realized that the invention could be used commercially to keep drinks hot and cold.  They held a contest to name the device and founded Thermos GmbH in 1904. (“Therme” is Greek for “heat.”)  They even licensed trademark rights to three other companies to make and sell the Thermos around the world.

Furious, Dewar sued to regain intellectual property rights.  The court noted that Dewar had never made any previous attempts to exercise patent rights, and the suit was dismissed.  The Thermos Company subsequently made millions in royalty-free profits from Dewar’s invention.

There is an ironic end to this story.  Because there was no patent, other companies also began to make and sell insulated vacuum bottles, even calling them “thermoses.”  The Thermos Company sued, but after a decade of litigation they lost their case.  In 1963, a U.S. judge ruled that the term “thermos” had become so generic it was no longer subject to trademark.

As for Dewar, he was awarded a knighthood and several other honors.  His invention is widely used in science and engineering, where it is still known as a “Dewar.”

As a leading technology innovator, Agilent understands the importance of intellectual property.  Company founder Bill Hewlett based Hewlett-Packard’s first product on an innovation, using a light bulb to stabilize the output of the HP 200 audio oscillator.  Hewlett’s ingenious approach was protected by HP’s first patent, US 2268872 A.

Currently, Agilent’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) systems use a modern-day vacuum flask (still called a “Dewar”) to keep the magnet near absolute zero so the wires become superconducting.


For more information go to:

Filed Under: All, Corporate
Tags: , , , ,

Please visit the Archive for more news items.

Agilent Request Form

For product or company information, please fill in all required fields.

Agilent Request Form

For product or company information, please fill in all required fields.

   
Name:
Email:
Phone:
Message:

Please leave this field empty.
captcha