You are hereby cordially invited to attend the seventh public STIAS lecture of 2012. This presents an opportunity to SU researchers and students, as well as members of the public, to learn more about the work of STIAS fellows.

On this occasion Prof. Marcello Barbieri, Professor of Embryology
at the University of Ferrara, Italy

and STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title:

Code Biology – A New Science of Life



The genetic code appeared on Earth at the origin of life, and the codes of culture arrived almost 4 billion years later, at the end of life’s history. According to official (textbook) science, these are the only codes that exist in Nature, and if this were true we would have to conclude that codes are extraordinary exceptions that appeared only at the beginning and at the end of evolution. In reality, various other organic codes (codes between organic molecules) have been discovered in the last 25 years, and it seems likely that many more will come to light in the future. The existence of many organic codes in Nature, however, is not only a new experimental fact. It is one of those facts that have extraordinary theoretical implications.

The first is that all great events of macroevolution were associated with the appearance of new organic codes, and this gives us a completely new description of the history of life.

The second great implication is about the mechanisms of evolution. The discovery that there are two fundamental molecular mechanisms at the basis of life, copying and coding, means that there are two distinct mechanisms of evolutionary change: evolution by natural selection, based on copying, and evolution by natural conventions, based on coding. The experimental discoveries and the theoretical implications of the organic codes have given origin to the new field of Code Biology, the study of all codes of life, from the genetic code to the codes of culture. This is truly a new science, a new dimension of life, the real new frontier of biology.

Date      Tuesday 23 October 2012
Time      13:00
Place     Con de Villiers lecture hall, JC Smuts building, Stellenbosch University

Take the foot bridge over Merriman avenue from the Neelsie. 

We look forward to welcoming you at this event  –  not to be missed! For more information, contact Felicia McDonald at 021 808 2581 or

Marcello Barbieri is professor of Embryology at the University of Ferrara, Italy, editor-in-Chief of the Springer journal Biosemiotics, president of the Italian Association of Theoretical Biology and of the newly formed International Society of Code Biology. He has conducted research on embryonic development and ribosome crystallization at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, USA, and the Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Genetik in Berlin. He has published books on embryology and evolution, and has taught biophysics, molecular embryology and theoretical biology, respectively, at the Universities of Bologna, Sassari and Turin. His research interests include embryology, evolution, biosemiotics and code biology.

His major books include:

The Semantic Theory of Evolution (1985), Harwood Academic Publishers, London and New York,
The Organic Codes. An Introduction to Semantic Biology (2003), Cambridge University Press,
Introduction to Biosemiotics (ed.) (2007), Springer, and
The Codes of Life (ed.) (2008) Springer.

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