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12 Highlights from Schrödinger at 75

Our CEO Vivienne Williams discusses the 'Schrödinger at 75' conference held at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on the 5th and 6th September.

In the words of 2017 Nobel Laureate Michael Rosbash, texting his wife at the end of Day 1 on how the conference was going; "Double Wow!" (or was that "Wow Wow!").

I have to admit, the morning I was on my way to the National Concert Hall, I was like a giddy school-girl! The line-up was the Electric Picnic (or Glastonbury!) of Science...with no less than 5 Nobel Laureates giving presentations, and an extraordinarily impressive list of pioneering scientists forging new paths across multiple disciplines.

Erwin Schrödinger gave his seminal 'What is Life?' talks in 1943

Organised by Prof. Mike Murphy (University of Cambridge), Prof. Cliona O'Farrelly (Trinity College Dublin, TCD), Prof. Luke O'Neill (TCD) and Prof. Tomas Ryan (TCD), the 'What is Life: Schrödinger at 75' 2 day lecture series was a celebration of the 75th anniversary of 3 public lectures given by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger.

What are the 'What is Life?' lectures, and why were they in Dublin?

In 1939, Erwin Schrödinger had fled from Nazi Germany, and on the invite of then Taoiseach Éamon de Valera came to Ireland. He became director of Theoretical Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), which de Valera (himself a mathematician) had founded.

In 1943, Schrödinger gave three public lectures entitled 'What is Life?' at Trinity College Dublin. In 1944, they were published as a book of the same name. These lectures had an enormous influence on the development and direction of the nascent field of molecular biology, including inspiring the younger James Watson to his studies in the area of the structure of DNA.

The series of lectures in Trinity formed the basis of Schrödinger's book which was shown both in the conference and at an exhibition in the Trinity College Dublin Long Room.

What is the 'Schrödinger at 75' conference?

This week, TCD marked the 75th anniversary of these lectures with a lively 2-day lecture series with some of the brightest minds working in biology today.

When Schrödinger gave his original lectures in 1943, the basis for heredity was the burning question; famously Schrödinger proposed the presence of an 'aperiodic crystal' responsible for this.

The speakers at the 75th anniversary lectures focused on a broad variety of topics, and ranged from 'The Future of Emotion' to 'The Future of AI', 'The Future of Gene Editing' and more topics; synthetic biology, bioenergetics, consciousness, ageing and more. All the talks, in common with Schrödinger's lecture, were future-focused, discussing what biology could become. Below are some of what I thought were the highlights of the conference.

Highlights from the conference: