Clocks and Rhythms

Stillman, B., Stewart, D. (2007) Clocks and Rhythms. In: Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology LXXII: Clocks and Rhythms, Cold Spring Harbor.

DOI: 10.1101/sqb.2007.72.069


The history of research into circadian rhythms can be traced back to the French astronomer Jean Jacques Ortous de Mairan, who conducted experiments with plants grown in the dark in the early 1700s. His observations started a slow march joined by luminaries such as Carolus Linnaeus and Charles Darwin interested in whether and how animal and plants measured time. The descriptive era of circadian biology continued into the latter half of the 20th century and was well summarized by the last Symposium held on the topic in 1960, in which the opening address by Erwin Bunning concluded that “thus far, however, such facts have not enabled us to draw far-reaching conclusions about the nature of the [biological] clock.” As with so many other disciplines in biology, the descriptive era has been revolutionized by the molecular era. Since the discovery and cloning of the first clock gene, period, more than 20 years ago, tremendous progress has been made about the nature of the clock and how it functions in a wide variety of different plants and animals. Research previously limited to describing “the hands of the clock” has been enormously successful in recent years in describing the inner anatomy and mechanism of the clock in individual cells and in the whole organism. Many in the chronobiology community are now, more than ever, attempting to place the molecular and cellular details of the oscillatory machinery in the broader context of cellular physiology—for example, the cell cycle—or organismal behaviors—for example, sleep and circadian behavior, and how these may in turn be affected by environment and/or disease. It is noteworthy that Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland wrote in his 1796 treatise The Art of Prolonging Life, “The period of twenty-four hours formed by the regular revolution of our apparent in all is, as it were, the unit of our natural chronology.” Our decision to focus the 72nd Symposium on circadian and related rhythms reflects the tremendous advances that molecular and cellular approaches have yielded thus far, a decision taken in part thanks to an open letter from 18 prominent scientists in the field. The Symposium was arranged to cover a range of themes associated with biological clocks and rhythms, ranging in scale from the molecular to the whole organism, and addressed how aberrant function of the clock may have a causative role in diverse human diseases and conditions. The Symposium provided a unique synthesis of the exciting progress being made in the field of chronobiology not only for the Symposia attendees, but also for a wider global audience via interviews freely available on the World Wide Web and, we anticipate, for readers of these Proceedings.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: organs, tissues, organelles, cell types and functions > tissues types and functions > biological clock
Publication Type > Meeting Abstract
CSHL Authors:
Communities: CSHL labs > Stillman lab
Meetings and Courses
Depositing User: Matt Covey
Date: 2007
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2014 20:06
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2018 19:55

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