Guest Blogger: My Late Father, George

 

On this day, 29 years ago, my father died at dawn. For 37 years, he had been the consummate educator… delivering his Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Mathematics lectures to two generations of teenage students residing in Minnesota and Michigan.

As a sophomore and junior I had answered, “Here” during each of Dad’s Monday – Friday morning role calls… as a senior I had been his lab assistant. Of course, I had also benefited from his home schooling, which encompassed life’s lessons.

As most of us know, historically, public school teachers have been underpaid and under-appreciated. So, to supplement his meager income, Dad expanded his lecture circuit… his byline appearing beneath our weekly, local newspaper’s front page column: “The Science Corner”.

Had Dad been born a bit later and lived longer than his 75 years, I’m positive he’d now be an enthusiastic blogger… perhaps even setting up his “lectern” right here @WordPress. I know he’d be thrilled by the prospects of his wisdom and wit spreading outward… at the speed of light… to all four corners of the Earth.

Keeping all the above in mind and with my saved and cherished, time-yellowed, brittle, actual hard copy newspaper propped up before me, I’ve decided to transcribe one of Dad’s lectures. And since 23 of my 46 chromosomes are my father’s… in a sense… 5 of my 10 fingers are his as I… no strike that… as we both… type it out.

I cannot think of a more fitting way to honor my father this day… than to afford him a bit of Internet immortality… resurrect his thoughts… restore his “voice”…  allow him to mind-meld with countless other minds, anew.

 

The Science Corner

DATELINE Thursday, July 2, 1953

 

The age old question – which was first, the chicken or the egg – has been used as a debate-ender, a counter dilemma, and even as a joke. If one discounts the dissertations of the debaters and philosophers and the quips of the comedians and truly strives for a scientific answer, then both the meaning and answer become crystal clear.

All living things, both plants and animals, are made up of tiny bits of protoplasm (living matter which looks very much like raw eggwhite). These bits of protoplasm are called cells. In animals, including the chicken, there are skin cells, muscle cells, bone cells, sperm cells and egg cells – to name just a few. All of the types of cells mentioned above except sperm and egg cells are ordinary body cells and are called somatic cells. The sperm and egg cells (collectively called germ cells) differ from the somatic cells in that the former are used to perpetuate life.

When a sperm cell unites with an egg cell, fertilization takes place. All cells, including new somatic cells and new sperm or egg cells, originate from the fertilized egg cell through processes of division and differentiation. In keeping with these principles, both the new chicken (somatic cells) and all of the eggs (germ cells) that the new chicken will ever lay come from the same egg. To put it still another way, the fertilized egg produces both the body cells which will make up the new chicken and all of the new eggs which the new chicken will lay during its lifetime.

The answer, then, to the original question is: the egg must have been first, because it came necessarily from the previous egg and not from the new chicken.

This concept, first enunciated by the German biologist – August Weismann, is known as the continuity of germplasm theory. According to this concept, the germ cells are immortal if reproduction takes place.

Next Week: Why Does Smoke Rise in a Chimney?