In the 1950s, the Lederbergs (Esther and Joshua) demonstrated the presence of phage lamba in Escherichia coli K-12.

But who demonstrated that this virus is integrated into the host's genome? Is there a paper related to this discovery?

Thank you

  • $\begingroup$ This may work better on our History of Science and Mathematics site than here, but see what others say. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JiminyCricket — In principle you are probably correct, but looking at SE HoS for the first time I was not impressed by the biological content, eg Crick & Watson discovering DNA, in a title left unchallenged for years. I have tried in my answer to indicate the science as well as the man, so it falls better within our remit. I should have perhaps extended my answer, but would need more time to read round the subject. Fascinating stuff, though . $\endgroup$
    – David
    Mar 17 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


Allan McCulloch Campbell (1929–2018)

In brief, Campbell was responsible for the hypothesis that lysogenic phages physically integrate into the DNA of host bacteria (rather than being laterally ‘attached’ or ‘synapsed’, as was the prevailing view at the time) — part of his “Campbell Model” — and he was responsible for identifying a particular gene, h, as necessary for the integration of bacteriophage lambda. This relied to a large extent on observations on mutant phage incapable of lysogeny, and bacterial strains that were resistant to phage.

An excellent place to read about how he established this is his own account in Annual Review in Genetics (2007) 41 1–11 (subscription required). This shows how ideas in science often develop as a result of many experiments and their interpretation within new intellectual frameworks, rather than a single ‘historic clincher’.

  • $\begingroup$ If there is anyone who is unable to obtain institutional access to the review and is very keen to read it, I suggest they post a comment and I'll see what can be done to help. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Mar 17 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your in-depth answer. $\endgroup$
    – Gigiux
    Mar 18 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the hint. I have read the paper, but it states that the Cmpbell model is a model. IS there experimental evidence for the integration of lambda? Southern blot perhaps? or microphotographs? $\endgroup$
    – Gigiux
    Mar 22 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Gigiux — Southern published his blotting method in 1975. The Campbell model dates from 1962. The methodology of molecular genetics was initially genetic, with the molecular aspects added only gradually. When direct methods were not available science advanced through the interpretation of indirect experiments.This is not easy for younger scientists to appreciate, but the intellectual beauty of such experiments often makes a stark contrast to contemporary brute-force science. I won't have time to go into this in more detail for about a month, as I shall be away, but I may return to it anon. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Mar 22 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ thank you, I'll be waiting. In the paper, Campbell stated that Jacob and Wollman proposed a synaptic model where the phage chromosome was closely associated but separate from that of the host, like that of EBV. The question is: who gave the final proof that lambda was indeed integrated? $\endgroup$
    – Gigiux
    Mar 26 at 5:54

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