Stent, Gunther Siegmund

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STENT, GUNTHER SIEGMUND (1924– ), U.S. molecular biologist. He was born Guenter Stensch in Berlin. He immigrated to the U.S. where he was educated at Hyde Park School, Chicago, and gained his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Illinois (1948). He worked on the synthetic rubber research program of the U.S. War Production Board (1944–48), apart from a period as a document analyst for the Field Intelligence Agency in Occupied Germany (1946–47). After post-doctoral fellowships at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (1948–50), the University of Copenhagen and the Pasteur Institute, Paris (1950–52), he returned to the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley (1952–94). He became professor of molecular biology from 1959, director of the virus laboratory (1980–86), and founding chairman of the department of molecular and cell biology (1987–92). From 1994 he was professor emeritus of neurobiology at Berkeley. Stent was an extraordinary polymath who achieved universal recognition in three fields of endeavor. His initial research in phage genetics (bacteria infecting viruses) made early contributions to the rapidly developing field of molecular biology. The significance of this research is summarized in the highly influential book Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology (1966) he wrote with James D. Watson and John Cairns. His research on developmental neurobiology is based on the leech and dates from a sabbatical visit to Harvard University (1972). He is also distinguished for his writings on the history and philosophy of science. His many highly regarded books in this field include Morality as a Biological Phenomenon (1978) and his autobiography, Nazis, Women and Molecular Biology (1998). Stent made major contributions to the organization of biological research at the University of California at Berkeley. He was a visiting professor at many leading universities in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]