Danchin, Antoine 1944-

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DANCHIN, Antoine 1944-


Born May 7, 1944, in Besan, Doubs, France; son of Pierre and (Boutillier) Danchin; married Agnieszka Sekowska; children: Raphael, Coralie. Ethnicity: "Homo Sapien." Education: M.A. (mathematics), 1965; M.A. (physics), 1957; Ph.D., 1967; D.Sci., 1971.


Home—Pine Court Block 1, Flat A6, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China. Office—Institut Pasteur, Unit of Genetics of Bacterial Genomes, Deptartment of Structure and Dynamics of Genomes, 28 rue du Docteur Roux, 75724, Paris Cedex 15, France. E-mail—[email protected].


Scientist, research director, and professor. École Normale Superieure Ulm, Paris, France, researcher, 1964-68; National Center for the Research of Science (CNRS), Paris, 1968—, began as researcher, became director of research, 1984; Pasteur Institute, Paris, head of research unit, 1986—, professor and former department head at Institut Pasteur, 2001—, head of Unit of Genetics of Bacterial Genomes, beginning 1993; HKU-Pasteur Research Centre, Hong Kong, China, cofounder and first director. Instructor and program organizer at universities in France, Italy, and the United States; advisor to, and committee and board member of, multiple scientific organizations and groups.


European Molecular Biology Organization, French Society for Microbiology, French Society for Molecular Biology, American Society for Microbiology.


Ordre et dynamique du vivant: chemins de la biologie moléculaire, Seuil (Paris, France), 1978.

L'oeuf et la poule: histoires du code génétique, Fayard (Paris, France), 1983.

(With Agnes Ullmann and others) Régulation de l'expression génétique: rôle de l'AMP cyclique: microbiologie générale, protocoles expérimentaux, edited by Francis Gasser, Hermann (Paris, France), 1986.

La barque de Delphes: ce que révèle le textes des génomes, Odile Jacob (Paris, France), 1998, translated by Alison Quayle as The Delphi Boat: What Genomes Tell Us, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals and scientific journals.


Antoine Danchin was first a mathematician and physicist before becoming a geneticist. In 1985 he began a collaboration with computer scientists that explored the use of artificial intelligence techniques in the study of molecular genetics. Danchin felt that the study of whole genomes should begin, provided that parallel advancements in computer science could also be initiated. His 1987 proposal that the genome of Bacillus subtilis be sequenced became a reality in 1988 when R. Dedonder began the European effort. Danchin contributed to the work with his colleagues in Europe and Japan.

Danchin's 1998 study was translated and published as The Delphic Boat: What Genomes Tell Us. The title refers to the question posed by the oracle at Delphi, who asked whether a boat is the same if, over time, every board rots away and is replaced. The answer is yes, because the boat is actually the relationship of its parts. Similarly, Danchin argues that life cannot be understood by a mere examination of its parts—DNA, genes, cells, etc.—as they have been mapped by the Human Genome Project, but by their relationships to each other. Booklist's Bryce Christensen noted that Danchin explains "that the genetic code functions not with the mechanical predictability of Newtonian physics but rather with the elusive suggestiveness of foreign metaphors."

The volume reveals that the evolution and survival of living organisms is an organized unfolding of a program shaped both by heredity and by the environment. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "Danchin's elaboration on this theme leads to daunting but fascinating discourses on information theory, entropy, chaos, and the creation of life," and concluded by calling The Delphic Boat "a rich Gallic feast of ideas to stimulate and savor."

Danchin's interests include philosophy and cultures, and in addition to his scientific articles he has written on a variety of other subjects, such as ethics and epistemology.



Booklist, December 1, 2002, Bryce Christensen, review of The Delphic Boat: What Genomes Tell Us, p. 636.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of The Delphic Boat, p. 1670.

Library Journal, December, 2002, Margaret Henderson, review of The Delphic Boat, p. 168.

Nature, April, 2003, Axel Meyer, review of The Delphic Boat, pp. 564-565.

Publishers Weekly, November 25, 2002, review of The Delphic Boat, p. 51.