Franklin M. Harold, noted author of The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms and the Order of Life, discusses his research in complex biochemistry and thoughts on the origin of life.
Harold’s long career has impacted many areas of science. Harold received his PhD in Comparative Biochemistry from U.C. Berkeley in 1955, and has spent a lifetime as a physiologist, specializing as a cell physiologist. It is the machinery of life, not its molecular constituents, that continues to fascinate him. As a young man, Harold was heavily influenced by the work of esteemed microbiologist, Roger Stanier, by whom he was taught that bacteria are not only the smallest creatures but also the simplest, and to truly understand life, one should study bacteria, not lab rats.
Harold talks about his long career in science and biology, starting with a passion for chemistry, which he developed at the age of fifteen. Over the years, he became more interested in cellular and evolutionary biology, and embarked on a prolific career in the scientific community. Harold discusses the tenets of Neo-Darwinism, and its need for tweaking, updating. He states that the early study was primarily focused on mutations in genes, but according to Harold, that doesn’t tell the full story. He expounds on the properties of eukaryotic cells and their origin. Eukaryotic cells contain a nucleus and organelles, and they are encompassed by a plasma membrane. Some of the many organisms that possess eukaryotic cells are as follows: protozoa, fungi, plants, and animals.
The biochemistry expert states that organisms throw off new species because their environment changes. He states that in order to see the evolution of organisms we would have to change their environment in a novel way, and give it time, lots of time. Harold remarks that the major changes that resulted in new animal species have to do with the genes that affect the web of regulation, the regulatory elements that control how much, and to what extent, a particular gene is expressed. Harold goes on to say that he believes in the theory that life must have begun with very simple chemical systems, not necessarily involving a gene, but a system sufficiently complex and interactive to be able to reproduce itself. And while he states there is zero evidence for it, nor good models, it is however a speculation that Harold finds particularly interesting.
Harold served on the research staff of the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center in Denver, and was a longtime member of the faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Harold retired from Colorado State University in 2000 as Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.