Self-illuminating creatures have drawn curiosity since time immemorial, but only a few researchers have conducted experiments to discover the source of their glow. One Raphaël Dubois determined in 1887 that it's a chemical reaction, the exact components of which eluded the best efforts of Princeton professor Edmund Newton Harvey. Enter the hero of the authors' story: Osamu Shimomura. A teenage survivor of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, he emerged from the ruins as a young biologist in the mid-1950s who had no strong idea of what to study. Handed bluish extract of sea flies by his boss, who added lapidary guidance'We know nothing about this, just that it glows'Shimomura solved the problem in a few years. Shimomura's eureka moment is well drawn by the authors, as is their explanation of the chemistry of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) Shimomura isolated. GFP has become a lucrative favorite of biotechnologists, who transformed the study of neural tissue by inventing GFP markers. Writing with warmth and optimism, Pieribone and Gruber will fascinate budding biochemistry students.
The last German submarine sunk in World War I was betrayed when it triggered the glow of microbes in the Mediterranean Sea. This phenomenon, which gives certain jellyfish their flickering luminescence and is characteristic of more than 90 percent of deep-sea creatures, is called biofluorescence. Pieribone and Gruber reveal the painstaking efforts of scientists to identify the mechanisms behind this mysterious light...Cellular-molecular biologist Pieribone and journalist Gruber detail how the groundbreaking discoveries of these and other researchers have had widespread implications in forensic science, molecular biology, and neuroscience.
[A] well-narrated and beautifully illustrated book. It combines character studies of the people involved with a thoroughly researched story of the unlikely events that led to the main discoveries...The main narrative is riveting, and the authors capture the sometimes curious way that science progresses through an alternation of chance discoveries and systematic, goal-directed experiments. Students wondering whether they are cut out to become scientists ought to be encouraged by the diverse cast of characters involved in solving the mystery of bioluminescence...These are exciting times for biology, and this accessible and lively introduction conveys the sheer pleasure of discovery, as well as the enormous technological potential of fluorescent proteins.
Thomas G. Oertner
Aglow in the Dark chronicles this saga of discovery of bioluminescence as it entertainingly traces the history of human interaction with bioluminescence, and charts the development of green fluorescent protein (GEP) as one of the groundbreaking discoveries of the 20th century. The text is superbly written and gripping throughout. As an authoritative introduction to the science of fluorescent proteins, the book should be obligatory reading for every newcomer to biology...In portraying the activities of a unique creative community in a clear and animated fashion, Pieribone and Gruber convey the spirit of scientific endeavor perfectly: discovery is not just a goal, but an unpredictable process as dependent on intellectual genius as on creative inspiration and pure luck. The pivotal figures traced in the book are shown to have all worked in an uncertain, rapidly changing scientific terrain, building on the work of others in ways they could hardly have anticipated. Pieribone and Gruber, however, leave no question of what the future of fluorescent protein technology holds. One has only to look at the current biological journals to realize that biofluorescence is revolutionary: use of fluorescent protein technology is now the order of the day.