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Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences$
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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226569871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.001.0001

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Collecting Dreams in the Molecular Sciences

Collecting Dreams in the Molecular Sciences

Margaret Dayhoff and The Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure

(p.128) 8 Collecting Dreams in the Molecular Sciences
Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences

Bruno J. Strasser

University of Chicago Press

There was a time when biology and computing seemed as far apart from each other as chocolate doughnuts and Nova Scotia lox. That is, until Margaret Belle Dayhoff arrived on the scene. The first woman to hold office in the Biophysical Society and the first person to serve as both Secretary and then President, Dayhoff devoted her career to applying the evolving computational technologies of the 1960s and 1970s to support advances in biology and medicine. In particular, it was Dayhoff who first saw the great potential in creating protein and nucleic acid databases and the computational tools needed for searching such databases, and this at a time when the interface between biology and advanced computing was virtually non-existent. In the face of ignorance more than anything else, Dayhoff dreamed of reducing the size of the data files used to describe amino acid sequence in an era when even simple punch-card computing was considered a strange province of but a few geeky and unconventional biologists. Described as “the mother and father of bioinformatics”, Dayhoff’s vision led to the modern databases of molecular sequencing, changing the face of biology forever. This essay examines how Dayhoff’s dream became a reality.

Keywords:   Margaret Dayhoff, Biophysical Society, bioinformatics, biology, medicine, protein and nucleic acid databases, molecular sequencing

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