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To solve this riddle, we must go back in history to the middle of the 19th century. Long before Watson and Crick suggested a model for DNA, Professor Hans Winkler devised the word ‘genome’ in 1920 to describe the pertinent protoplasm which defines a species. He was pretty sure that this hereditary material was made up at least in part by the chromosome. Typical wisdom suggests that he combined the words gene and chromosome to come up with ‘genome’. That may well be true; but it is also possible that, since he was a botanist, Winkler would have been familiar with such terms as rhizome and biome, so he could have attached the -ome ending to the word gene to come up with an inclusive word describing everything to do with genetics.
Our quest for the answer takes us back even further to the 1880s. Simultaneously, Johann Friedrich Miescher was working on the fluids in pus while Gregor Mendel was breeding pea plants. Miescher isolated nuclein (DNA). Initially, he thought that it might play a role in heredity.
Gregor Mendel presented his major paper at a symposium in 1865. Miescher published the discovery of nuclein in 1869. Amazingly, neither was taken very seriously at time of publication. It was not until 1900 that Mendel’s work was rediscovered, and it was not until 1953 that Watson and Crick suggested the model for DNA.
The Oxford English Dictionary credits T.H. Roderick for coining the word ‘genomics’. The word came out of a brainstorming session to determine a possible name for a new science journal. The first known print usage was in September 1987 when Victor McKusick and Frank Ruddle announced in Volume 1, Issue 1, page 1 of Genomics: “A new discipline, a new name, a new journal”.
Genomics came to Canada in a big way in 2000 when the Government of Canada established the mandate for Genome Canada to develop and implement a national strategy for supporting large-scale genomics and proteomics research projects. Since 2005, Genome Alberta is one of the Genome Centres established by Genome Canada to focus on genomics as one of the central components of the Life Sciences Initiative in Alberta, and to help position genomics as a core research effort.
Make sure you keep up with all the latest developments, riddles and puzzles in the field of genomics by visiting GenomeAlberta.ca.
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