They Came Bearing Gifts

The fruit-fly activity monitor Rosbash and Hall used in the 1980s.
The fruit-fly activity monitor Rosbash and Hall used in the 1980s.

In December, at a ceremony steeped in custom, Nobel Prize winners Michael Rosbash and Jeff Hall accepted gold medallions from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Following another tradition, the two scientists presented Stockholm’s Nobel Museum with a unique gift for its permanent collection.

The scientists gave the museum a hand-built fruit fly activity monitor, which they used in the 1980s during their groundbreaking research into the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms.

A fruit fly would be placed inside a test tube hitched to the monitor’s backing. An infrared light shone across the middle of the test tube. When the fly was awake, it flew around and broke the beam. When it rested, the light remained undisturbed. The machine recorded the state of the beam for the duration of the experiment, tracking the fly’s sleep habits.

Read more about Rosbash and Hall’s work in this issue’s cover story.

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