1960s - Growth
Beadle’s departure deserves separate mention. After 14 years as Division chair he was invited to become the President of the University of Chicago, and departed Caltech in January of 1961. He was replaced as Division chair by Ray Owen, among whose contributions to immunology had been the discovery of immune tolerance, leading to our present abilities in organ transplantation. Owen at first accepted appointment only as acting chair until a new outside chairman could be found, but became Division Chair for the 1962-3 academic year. In April, 1968 he was succeeded by another internal candidate, Robert Sinsheimer.
There were many research highlights in the 1960s, including the Bonner lab’s explorations of chromatin, Sinsheimer’s work on the single stranded DNA virus fX174, the beginning of the classic work of Edgar and Wood on the genetic control of phage assembly, Olds’s explorations of the results of direct brain stimulation, Sperry’s discovery of hemispheric specialization in human brains, Lewis’s initial studies of the genes of the Bithorax complex, and the beginning of Benzer’s work on the neurobiology and genetics of behavior in fruit flies.
The 1960s were also the decade when the biology undergraduate program began to grow. From the beginning of the Division until 1962 the typical Biology graduating class was 3 or 4 students, rarely more. In 1962 11 graduated, with classes of 8, 12, 10, 4, 11, 8 and 10 following through 1969. There were a total of 83 B.S. degrees in biology given in the decade, with fewer than 120 total degrees given from the 1930s to 1960. Biology was beginning to become popular with Caltech undergraduates. A few of the students who earned a B.S. in Biology in the ‘60s are Thomas Jovin, Leroy Hood, Leland Hartwell, Ira Herskowitz and Douglas Brutlag – familiar names now, 30 years later, and another set of examples of the saying that Caltech is a good place to go to, and a good one to come from.
The decade ended with the award of the 1969 Nobel Prize to Max Delbrück for his leadership in establishing phage genetics and the field of molecular biology. “We planned the experiment that day,” Jacob said. “That’s when we decided, Sydney and myself, to go to Cal Tech. I had been invited by Delbrück to come and spend a month there, and Sydney had been invited by Meselson…they put three of the six [tubes] into Meselson’s usual centrifuge, the other three into a second machine downstairs in Dulbecco’s lab. They started them up. Then they found that Weigle’s water bath was contaminated by the spilled P32, so they rinsed it out and hid it behind the Coca-Cola machine in the basement to cool off. In Brenner’s remembrance, the next day was the day they went to the beach…” Description of the experiments in which the existence of messenger RNA was proven, in June, 1960; The Eighth Day of Creation, H. F. Judson, Simon and Schuster, 1979, pp. 433-439.
Last modified 2004-11-08 09:27 PM