Michael Szwarc begins with his early interest in science while growing up in Poland, leading to his studies at the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. Szwarc next describes his experiences from 1935, when he emigrated to Israel, until his move to the University of Manchester in 1945. At Manchester, he worked in Michael Polanyi's physical chemistry group and first embarked on his studies on polymerization. He describes a 1950s visit to the US, involving many lecture trips, and the circumstances leading to his acceptance of a professorship at SUNY, Syracuse. Research on the methyl affinities of aromatic compounds led Szwarc to work with the naphthalene radical anion and, hence, to the development of the living polymers. The interview ends with Szwarc reviewing his later studies and his reflections on co-workers and associates.
Herbert Tabor begins with a discussion of his family and childhood. He grew up during the Depression in Manhattan, New York, and attended local public schools before becoming a student at City College in 1933;after two years, he transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated with an AB in biochemical science in 1937 and his MD in 1941. Tabor began an internship at New Haven Hospital, then entered the Public Health Service of the National Institutes of Health and worked closely with Dr. Sanford M. Rosenthal. Tabor and Dr. Rosenthal studied electrolyte changes in burns and shock and determined how to treat burn and shock victims using saline instead of plasma. In 1961, Tabor joined the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Later, he advanced to Associate Editor before becoming Editor in Chief in 1971, a position he still holds today. Tabor developed the Minireview Compendium, which is a yearly compilation of all short reviews published in the JBC for a particular year. Tabor discusses the importance of computer technology in advancing the usage and availability of the JBC in today’s world. Tabor concludes the interview with a discussion on the future of the JBC and electronic journal availability.
Esther Takeuchi grew up in Akron, Ohio. She majored in history and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was often the lone woman in her classes. Takeuchi completed her PhD in Harold Shechter’s lab at the Ohio State University. Takeuchi chose industry over academia, taking a job at Union Carbide Corporation, working on catalysis. She did postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina. Takeuchi accepted a position as senior chemist at Greatbatch, Inc., rediscovering the use of silver vanadium oxide in oil-drilling batteries and adapted the chemistry for an implantable cardiac defibrillator. During her twenty-three years at Greatbatch, Takeuchi rose up in management positions, culminating in Chief Scientist at the Center for Excellence. As the Greatbatch Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at SUNY Buffalo, Takeuchi was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Takeuchi is currently the Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering in a joint appointment with Brookhaven National Laboratory and SUNY Stonybrook.
William S. Talbot grew up in Gainesville, Florida. Although he did not appreciate it at the time, growing up in a university town provided him with access to several influential teachers. For example, a science project brought him into the lab of Edward Wakeland to work on the nature and extent of variation in wild mouse populations. Talbot continued working with Wakeland as an undergraduate at University of Florida, Gainesville. He moved to graduate studies at Stanford University, working with David S. Hogness on the hormonal control of metamorphosis in Drosophila. After a postdoc, he accepted a position at the Skirball Institute, where he researched the genes involved in tissue development of zebrafish. Talbot returned to Stanford, where he works in vertebrate developmental biology. At the end of the interview, Talbot discusses patents; his reasons for becoming a principal investigator; collaboration and competition in science; setting the national scientific agenda; the privatization of scientific research; and his transition to studying myelin formation.
Song Tan was born in London, England, and lived in Singapore and the US during his childhood. He remembers always being interested in science, especially the chemical elements. He was in an honors program in a high school that allowed students to work in university labs around Miami. He worked in Richard Doepker's lab at the University of Miami, where he analyzed the products of burning plastic. Tan took fourth place in the Westinghouse Talent Search; he used his scholarship at Cornell University, which had the added attraction of a synchrotron. He majored in physics, but with a concentration in biochemistry. At the University of Cambridge, he worked with Trevor Lamb and Timothy Richmond. Tan moved with Richmond to Zürich, Switzerland. Upon finishing his work with Richmond, Tan accepted an assistant professorship at Penn State University.
Morris Tanenbaum grew up in Huntington, West Virginia. He attended Johns Hopkins University; one of his professors, Clark Bricker, who was leaving for Princeton University, convinced Tanenbaum to accept a research assistantship there and to obtain a PhD. Tanenbaum worked on spectroscopy in Bricker's lab and the mechanical properties of metal single crystals in Walter Kauzmann's lab. After being awarded his PhD, Tanenbaum went to work at Bell Laboratories where he did the original studies of single crystal III-V semiconductors. With the assistance of Ernest Buehler, he made the world's first silicon transistor. Working with Calvin Fuller, Tanenbaum invented the diffused base silicon transistor using solid-state diffusion. Western Electric recruited Tanenbaum to lead its new Engineering Research Center. He later became Vice President of Engineering for all of Western Electric and then Vice President for Transmission Equipment. Tanenbaum was called back to Bell Labs as Executive Vice President with responsibility for all of development. Then he moved to AT&T Corporate Offices as Senior Vice President of Engineering and Network Services. He later served as President of New Jersey Bell. In 1980, he was called back to AT&T as Executive Vice President for Administration. During that period, he was much involved in the Federal antitrust case against AT&T that was eventually settled by a Consent Degree that separated AT&T into several independent companies (the "Baby Bells") providing local telephone service and AT&T retaining Western Electric, most of Bell Labs, and the long distance services. His final position was CFO and Vice Chairman of the AT&T Board of Directors.
Rudolph E. Tanzi was born near Providence, Rhode Island. His parents wanted him to be a doctor. In spite of his preference for music, he studied microbiology at the University of Rochester. After college he became a technician for James Gusella at Massachusetts General Hospital, helping to identify the Huntington’s chorea gene. Tired of genetics, he next applied to Harvard to study neuroscience. Work on the chromosome implicated in Down syndrome led him to investigate Alzheimer’s disease. He cloned and characterized the amyloid protein precursor gene. He has progressed from assistant professor at Harvard to full professor and is the director of the genetics and aging unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. He continues to study the role of alpha-2 macroglobulin (A2M) in Alzheimer’s disease.
This brief, informal interview begins with Taube describing his early career at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley, and his decision to accept a position at the University of Chicago, where In 1956 he became chairman of the chemistry department. Taube then discusses his relationship with Warren Johnson, the dean of the physical sciences, who he felt helped the department survive in terms of balancing the budget and finding financial support. Taube then reflects on the history of the chemistry department and the various members of the faculty who ran the department in its early years. Next, Taube discusses his means of funding his research during his early years at the University of Chicago and his work with mass spectrometry. While at the University of Chicago, Taube worked with Frank H. Westheimer amd Willard H. Libby. Taube concludes his interview by discussing the ways in which his career as an instructor at Cornell and the research he was involved with negatively affected his first marriage and how he learned later to delegate authority and find balance between his professional and personal life.
Henri Termeer begins his interview by discussing his parents’ histories, the influence of family, and his entrance into the business world. While writing his master’s thesis, he acquired his first job in systems engineering. Termeer describes his move into the medical and healthcare product business, holding various management positions at Baxter Travenol Laboratories Inc. (now Baxter International). While working for Baxter, Termeer was able to gain the experience necessary to head Genzyme in 1983, a then two-year old start-up biotechnology company, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Under his leadership, Genzyme pioneered treatments for patients with rare genetic diseases. He recounts Genzyme’s experience with Gaucher disease and the developments of Ceredase® and then Cerezyme® and the lessons learned, and how Genzyme developed and distributed other innovative treatments to their patients. Under his leadership, Genzyme became a global biotech business, diversifying, through acquisitions across areas including LSDs, orthopedics, cancer, transplant and immune diseases, and diagnostic testing.
The oral history begins with Harold E. Thayer recalling growing up in Rochester, New York, during the Depression, and his decision to attend MIT, where he pursued a course combining chemical engineering and business administration. He describes working at American Cyanamid and Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, where he was involved in the War Production Board and the Manhattan District's uranium processing. The interview focuses on Thayer's long-standing outspokenness in management.
For more information on John Thomas, please visit the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences.
For more information on this oral history, please contact the Director of the Center for Oral History.
Marion C. Thurnauer attended the University of Chicago for her undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry, working with Gerhard Closs, her doctoral thesis advisor. She completed the final experiments for her thesis at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) because the required electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrometer at the University of Chicago was severely damaged by a chemical explosion that occurred in the University's chemistry building. She secured a postdoctoral position in the ANL Chemistry Division (CHM) with James R. Norris and Joseph J. Katz, studying photochemical energy conversion in natural photosynthesis. She was promoted to Assistant Chemist, a staff position, and was, for a few years, the only female staff scientist in CHM and rose to become the first woman CHM Director. Along the way she established "Science Careers in Search of Women," which ultimately led to the formulation and launching of the ANL Women in Science and Technology (WIST) program. In addition to her administrative work, Thurnauer was able to continue to be involved with science mainly because her co-workers kept her informed and up to date on their results. Thurnauer discusses the general state of women in science, but particularly at ANL. She stresses the importance of mentoring, reinforcing, and building networks for women; she talks about having her husband in her division; she explains e-mentoring and recommends it; and she names and describes the work of some of the women who have served as her role models.
Max Tishler describes his family, early schooling, undergraduate education at Tufts, graduate and postgraduate work at Harvard, and the state of chemistry in the 1930s. The major portion of the interview contains Tishler's impressions of the research and development undertaken by Merck & Co. in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and of his role in that activity. Tishler ends the interview by discussing his current activities at Wesleyan and presenting his views about the future direction of chemistry.
Charles Tobias begins with a description of his family in Hungary and education at the University of Technical Sciences in Budapest; he compares the US and Hungarian educational systems. Tobias explains his wartime experiences in Hungary and the struggle to reach the US. He spends a large portion of the interview discussing the Electrochemical Society.
Jacques Tocatlian was born in Egypt, where he attended a French secondary school and then studied industrial chemistry. After work in the plastics division at Monsanto, Tocatlian accepted a position at the Food and Machinery Corporation as a literature chemist, and worked on the first Selective Dissemination of Information [SDI] experiment. Tocatlian pursued a master's in information and library science. Throughout the interview, Tocatlian discusses the international standardization issues of UNESCO and the organization of UNISIST.
Claudio Todeschini received his first degree in civil engineering from the University of Capetown, South Africa and later went to the United States and became a PhD research assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Todeschini accepted a professorship at the University of Maryland in 1966, and a year later, he became a part-time researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the US Department of Commerce, working on information systems, retrieval, and terminological relationships. He joined the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Margaret E. M. Tolbert was born in Suffolk, Virginia at a time when rural Virginia was still very segregated. Her high school had limited resources, but she found excellent mentors and graduated class valedictorian. She attended Tuskegee University for her undergraduate degree, majoring in chemistry. She completed her master's degree in chemistry at Wayne State University and her PhD in Biochemistry at Brown University. After completing her doctorate, Tolbert returned to Tuskegee as a faculty member, but soon took guest research and management positions at the University of Texas, Florida A&M University, and Brown University; she also completed a postdoctorate in Brussels, Belgium. In 1979, she became the first woman director of the Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee University. After almost a decade at the Carver Research Foundation, she went to Standard Oil of Ohio on sabbatical. From that point onward, she transitioned permanently to science management positions, working for BP America, the National Science Foundation, Argonne National Laboratory, and the New Brunswick Laboratory.
Haldor Topsøe begins his oral history discussing of his early life in Denmark, and his involvement in his father's Samfundshjælpen, which taught him the importance of collaboration between social classes. As a chemical engineer, and later, a businessman, Topsøe gained an interest in the relationship between economics and science, particularly catalysis. Topsøe further discusses the transfer of technology to India and the Third World, and the impact of the Green Revolution on chemical industries.
Toshio Tsukiyama was born in Chiba, Japan. Influenced by his sister, he attended veterinary school in Hokkaido and became interested in research. There, Toshio read an article by Ohtsura Niwa and he decided he wanted to study with him at Hiroshima University. Niwa had obtained his PhD from Stanford University and was familiar with American courses of study; he made Toshio read and present books and articles, something the Japanese did not do, and convinced Toshio to come to the United States. At the Whitehead Center for Biomedical Research, Toshio worked on chromatin remodeling in Carl Wu's lab. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center then hired him as an associate member, where he continues research on the regulation of chromatin structure and its effect on cellular processes.
Howard S. Turner discusses his early interests in chemistry before receiving his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Swarthmore College. Turner earned his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1936 and before starting his career with E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company working in the Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware, where he researched polymer 66, nylon, and Corfam. In 1947, after eleven years with DuPont, Turner left the company and in 1965, Turner left J&L to become president of Turner Construction Company, in New York. The company, started in 1902 by his uncle, was among the top construction firms in the country.
Audio files for this interview are not available.
Leslie L. Vadasz begins by describing his childhood in Budapest during World War II. He began an undergraduate mechanical engineering program before continuing in solid state physics at McGill University. Vadasz joined Fairchild Semiconductor, where he helped develop the silicon gate process; later, at Intel Corporation he researched erasable programmable read-only memory. Vadasz recounts his role as general manager of the microcomputer components division and its interactions with the semiconductor industry. Vadasz concludes the interview with remarks on the importance of technical knowledge in both developmental and managerial work.
Mark D. Van Doren became interested in biology during high school science classes; before college, he undertook summer research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. At Cornell, Van Doren worked with Efraim Racker who exposed him to the complexities of scientific practice, including research ethics and the need for experimental replication and validation. He published in a scientific journal, an experience that helped him decide upon laboratory science as his career. He then worked at Oncogene Science prior to starting graduate work at University of California, San Diego. There, Van Doren developed an interest in Drosophila and decided to pursue research on the biochemistry of Drosophila BHLH proteins, resulting in a 1991 Development paper. He is now at Johns Hopkins University, where he continues his Drosophila research.
For more information on Wesley Van Voorhis, please visit the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences.
For more information on this oral history, please contact the Director of the Center for Oral History.
Edwin J. Vandenberg begins his oral history discussing his early interests in science and the decision to focus on chemistry at Stevens Institute of Technology. He began his career at Hercules working on paper chemistry, where he contributed to the understanding of paper sizing as a colloid phenomenon. After working on World War II production of smokeless powder, Vandenberg returned to the Hercules research, working on a wide range of polymer syntheses. The interview concludes with an account of his retirement activities at Arizona State University, and reflections on his family, colleagues and ACS activities.
Inder Verma begins by discussing how he came to leave the Weizmann Institute of Science and join David Baltimore's laboratory at MIT . Verma discusses his early research on reverse transcriptase and RNA, establishing himself with his co-workers, and his impressions of Baltimore. Verma provides an alternate view to some of the political turmoil that Charles N. Cole discusses in his interview because as a foreign student, Verma had a different opinion of the Vietnam War and the anti-war demonstrations. Verma concludes his interview with some thoughts about his research and its impact on cancer research. Joint interview with Charles N. Cole.
Marvin L. Vestal earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Engineering Sciences from Purdue University, taking a break after two years to volunteer for the draft; he finished his undergraduate degree and master's degree on the GI Bill. During college he worked part time at Johnston Laboratories, where he met Henry Rosenstock and Merrill Wallenstein. Vestal worked on the coincidence time-of-flight (TOF) project and also improved the machine with his invention of an electron multiplier. He founded Scientific Research Instrument Corporation (SRIC), with Gordon Fergusson, William Johnston (of Johnston Labs), and Bob Jones. The company licensed the new process chemical ionization (CI) from its inventors, Burnaby Munson and Frank Field. Vestal decided to pursue a PhD in chemical physics at the University of Utah, studying under Wahrhaftig and Futrell. He built a triple quadrupole MS for photodissociation; with Calvin Blakely he built a crossbeam MS for his dissertation. Vestal accepted a position at the University of Houston, where he stayed for eleven years. During those years he invented and patented thermospray and started another company, Vestec to commercialize MALDI/TOF instruments; the company did so well he left the University to work at Vestec. Vestec's merger with PerSeptive, led by Noubar Afeyan, eventually led to the merger with Applied Biosystems. After retiring for a short while, Vestal founded Virgin Instruments.
Monica L. Vetter grew up in Markham, Canada, and attended McGill University. Her interest in science led to several summers spent in various academic labs working on muscle contraction, motor cortex and motor control in primates, and neural control of eye movements. She attended University of California, San Francisco, for graduate school, researching molecular genetics and signaling pathways in neuronal cells. She remained there for a postdoc in Yuh Nung Jan's laboratory, focusing on ath5 transcription factor and the regulation of the initial events in vertebrate retinal neural development. Finally, she accepted a faculty appointment at University of Utah. Vetter talks about the biomedical revolution, her decision to pursue academic research, patents, history of science, and the role of scientists in scientific public policy and literacy.
Ernest Volwiler begins his oral history interview discussing his early years in Ohio, college at Miami University, and his early interests in chemistry. He attended the University of Illinois for his PhD, where he worked with Roger Adams. His long career with Abbott Laboratories started in organic synthesis, including some plant production responsibilities. After World War II, Volwiler was a member of the pharmaceutics investigating team sent to Germany. Post-war advancement led Volwiler to the presidency of Abbott Laboratories, and he discusses how he trimmed the production line and initiated development into new areas. His ACS activities culminated in his election as Society President in 1950.
James R. Von Ehr became interested in electronics when he was given vacuum tubes, a homemade Heathkit ham radio, and electronics magazines as a child. While studying computer science at Michigan State University, he helped hack into MSU's computer system with a group that named themselves the alternative systems programming group. Von Ehr was caught, but memorialized the experience in the name of his first company, Altsys Corporation. After college, he first worked for Texas Instruments, then started his own company, and developed games, utilities, fonts, and other programs for Macintosh. Later in his career, he became fascinated by nanotechnology, eventually founding the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative. Von Ehr meditates on the interface between computers and nano, the inevitability of progress, and the value of competition.
Henrique P. von Gersdorff was born in Brazil, but his father worked for the United Nations, so his family moved several times. He liked mathematics and resolved early to be a theoretical physicist. He also liked taking things apart to see how they worked. Von Gersdorff matriculated into the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, then pursued a master's degree in theoretical physics at Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas. Though he first received a PhD in physics, he soon found himself intrigued by the brain's workings. He entered Gary Matthews's neurophysiology laboratory at Stony Brook and earned a PhD in neurobiology. Von Gersdorff accepted an offer from the Vollum Institute in Portland, Oregon. He discusses the setting-up of his lab, funding, collaboration, and the workings of Oregon Health & Science University.
Matthew K. Waldor grew up near Newark, New Jersey, and attended Yale University. He had his first real research experience at Woods Hole Science Center working on neural systems in the leech nervous system. His interest in scientific research piqued, Waldor sought out research while in medical school at Stanford and ended up in Larry Steinman's laboratory studying autoimmunity in the nervous system, specifically developing mouse models. After his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Waldor began a fellowship in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and then a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, researching a new strain of epidemic cholera. From there he accepted a position at Tufts University, conducting research in microbial genetics and infectious diseases studying phage replication, regulation, and antibiotic resistance. Waldor discusses the requirements of scientific practice and the ways in which he balances his career with his family life; his professional goals; his process for writing journal articles; and a typical workday. The interview ends with reflections on the privatization of scientific research; gender and ethnic issues in science; and the role of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant in his laboratory.
Frederick Wall begins with a discussion of his family background and childhood in Minnesota, attending the University of Minnesota, and studying chemistry and chemical engineering. After a stint at Caltech with Linus Pauling, Wall moved back to the University of Minnesota and earned his PhD in 1935. At the University of Illinois he worked on infrared spectroscopy, gradually becoming interested in polymers. During World War II he volunteered to work on the rubber problem. In 1963, Wall moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later the University of California, San Diego. In 1969, he became executive director of the American Chemical Society (ACS), but soon rejoined academia, becoming professor of chemistry at Rice University.
Cheves Walling begins his oral history interview by describing his family and education at Harvard and the University of Chicago, stressing the major review article on the peroxide effect that he and Frank Mayo wrote in 1940. Walling next examines the research that he undertook at DuPont, US Rubber, and Lever Brothers, emphasizing the work that he did before 1950 at US Rubber. Finally, Walling examines his academic career at Columbia and the University of Utah. Throughout the interview he reflects upon the emergence and maturation of physical organic chemistry.
John C. Warner begins his oral history interview discussing his family, his high school interest in science. He enrolled in Indiana University in 1915, where he received his AB in chemistry in 1919, his MA in 1920, and his PhD in 1923. In 1926, he joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he spent the rest of his career, rising to become president of in 1950. Warner concludes the interview with a discussion of his family and reflections on his role in the advanced educational development in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Earl L. Warrick begins his oral history interview with a description of his childhood, which involved frequent moves between cities, and remembering a seventh grade teacher who inspired his interest in chemical engineering by having him build a one-tube radio. While at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warrick was disappointed by the chemical engineering and switched to physical chemistry, in which he received a master's degree. Warrick describes his experiences at the Mellon Institute, where he developed a glass coating. He received his ScD for a kinetic study carried out almost exclusively on nights and weekends. While at Dow Corning, Warrick helped develop rubber, polymer, and silicone research including the famous Silly Putty. He mentions the influence of several colleagues, especially McGregor, Collings, Hyde, Bass, and Speier. Warrick concludes by commenting on his position at Saginaw Valley State College, his current writing, and the changes that have occurred in chemistry throughout his career.
Wilma M. Wasco was raised in Fairfield, Connecticut. While at University of Connecticut, she worked for Guillermo Fallar, a neuroscientist, and Ian McClellan, biochemist, Wanting to study molecular pharmacology, she attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she conducted research with George A. Orr and published her first paper. She then took a postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working with Frank Solomon on microtubular-associated proteins, specifically identifying and characterizing amyloid precursor-like protein 1 (APLP1); during her studies she received a National Research Service Award. Wasco became a research fellow, and then an assistant professor at Harvard University, researching neuronal cell death in normal and neurodegenerative cells with implications for Alzheimer's disease research, and becoming an assistant geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
James L. Waters begins by discussing his family history and the emigration of his ancestors from England to Massachusetts in 1638. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1925, Waters describes himself as an independent child. During high school, Waters' father was offered a position that took the Waters family to Framingham, Massachusetts. As part of the Navy's V-12 program, Waters studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University, before being discharged and transferring to the University of Nebraska. Shortly after accepting a position at Baird Associates Inc., Waters decided the time was right to start his own instrumentation company. At just twenty-two, Waters founded James L. Waters, Inc., in his parents' basement. Waters' sheer determination to succeed enabled him to overcome the many obstacles that occurred while working on his first instrument, an infrared gas analyzer. He then began to delve into the field of gel permeation chromatography. Waters Associates merged with Millipore Inc. in 1977.
Jason D. Weber grew up in Edwardsville, Illinois, and attended Bradley University to study biotechnology, a new field that was to become what is now molecular biology. A radiation biology class led him into the study of cancer and tumor suppression. He loved working in the lab and knew he wanted to do that for his career. Before entering graduate school he spent a year and a half at Monsanto, working on Celebrex in Peter Isakson's lab. For his PhD he went into St. Louis University's cell and molecular biology program, where Joseph Baldassare became his mentor, working on the cell cycle and publishing five papers in addition to his thesis. He is now an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Philip B. Wedegaertner grew up in Stockton, California, and attended University of California, Davis. He had opportunities to work with James W. Blankenship in the School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific and in Donald M. Carlson's laboratory. Wedegaertner pursued graduate work in biochemistry at University of California, San Diego. There he worked with Gordon N. Gill synthesizing and characterizing the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor. Wedegaertner took a postdoc with Claude Cochet in Grenoble, France. After another postdoc at University of California, San Francisco, he accepted a position at Thomas Jefferson University, continuing work on G proteins. Wedegaertner explores the history of science, tenure, competition and collaboration, the national scientific agenda, privatization of research, and lessons learned becoming a principal investigator.
Ruth Weeks was born and raised in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Weeks was one of seven children; her parents worked locally. Her neighborhood was racially mixed. When Weeks was growing up, Ambler was much more of a small, family-owned businesses community. She remembers sledding down the “White Mountains,” not realizing the impact the asbestos factory would have on people living there. Weeks married her high-school sweetheart. They moved to Germany for her husband’s military service. After five years, Weeks returned to Ambler. Weeks attended classes at the Lansdale School of Business while raising her children. Wise helped establish Citizens for a Better Ambler (CBA) to fight a proposed high-rise on Ambler’s asbestos area. With the involvement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in remediation of the site, the CBA developed into a community advisory group (CAG), and the ensuing debate over remediation caused a split between those who advocated total removal of asbestos, and those who wanted capping. Weeks discusses the redevelopment of Ambler and how much it has changed since she was a student. She hasn’t seen much assistance from the EPA and Penn to truly identify the continued risk and conditions of Ambler; she believes that asbestos is still the “white elephant” in the room.
William Weis was born in Queens, New York. As a child, he especially liked mathematics and science. In high school he took two science classes every year and was on the math team. Weis attended Princeton where he studied biochemistry and discovered spectroscopy, writing his graduation thesis on rhodopsin spectroscopy. At Harvard for graduate school, Weis found Don Wiley's crystallography lab perfect and worked on influenza hemagglutinin. Next, he spent a year at Yale, working on simulated annealing, getting a better model of hemagglutinin. From there he went to Columbia University Medical Center, where he spent four years studying the structure of C-type lectins using MAD phasing. Now at Stanford, he manages a lab, and enjoys writing and teaching.
Alison A. Weiss grew up in Wisconsin. Weiss chose to attend Washington University in St. Louis, where she worked on bacteria in Simon Silver’s lab. She enjoyed the University, Silver’s lab, her independence, and the work, ultimately staying on as a technician for a three years. Weiss began graduate school in Stanley Falkow’s lab at the University of Washington; soon thereafter the lab moved to Stanford University. Her dissertation dealt with Bordetella pertussis, and she cloned a pertussis toxin. After two years as a postdoc at the University of Virginia (UVA) Weiss was recruited to UVA’s medical school, Virginia Commonwealth University.
John H. Weiss grew up in San Francisco, California and attended Stanford University, to study biology and neuroscience. While at Stanford University School of Medicine, uncertainty prevented him from seeking a lab position. During his residency, he met Dennis W. Choi and entered the Stanford PhD program in neuroscience. In the Choi lab he began work on mechanisms of nerve cell degeneration in stroke and on glutamate's toxic effect on nerve cells. Research on nerve degenerative diseases on Guam led Weiss to study ß-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). He discovered that BMAA's toxicity depends on a covalent interaction with other compounds. Now at University of California, Irvine, he discusses setting up his lab, research, and collaboration with other scientists.
Gerald Weissmann was born in Austria, but when young, he and his family fled the Nazis, eventually ending up in New York City. After earning a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Columbia College, Weissmann, entered medical school at New York University. Having opted for a research career, he completed his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital and became chief resident at Bellevue Hospital. In the mid-1960s, Weissmann, along with close friend, Alec D. Bangham, discovered liposomes, and in 1982 founded The Liposome Company, which received FDA approval for the drugs Abelcet and Myocet. In speaking about the origins of the Pew Biomedical Scholars Program, Weissmann contrasts the Pew funding with larger funding bodies like the NIH, Weissmann, extolling the benefits of funding creative young scientists.
Paul Weisz begins by discussing his family background in Austria-Hungary after World War I, when his family moved to Berlin. Weisz was educated in the Gymnasium, where he developed an interest in physics and chemistry. He attended the Technical University in Berlin and spent his free time in the laboratory of Wolfgang Kohlhoerster at the Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research, where he worked on Geiger counter instrumentation and cosmic ray measurements. Because of Hitler's rise to power, Weisz arranged an exchange program with Auburn University, earning his BS in physics in 1940. At the Bartol Research Foundation in Pennsylvania, Weisz worked on radiation counting and projects relating to the National Research Defense Council. After gaining clearance to do classified work, he moved to the MIT Radiation Laboratory where he helped to develop a long range navigation trainer (Loran). He accepted a position with Mobil Corporation, where he worked on catalysis. In 1966, he completed his ScD at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zürich, where he had worked with Heinrich Zollinger on dye chemistry. Weisz concludes the interview by discussing innovation in industry, the importance of interdisciplinary thinking, and his later work on Alzheimer's Disease and angiogenesis.
For more information on Rodney Welch, please visit the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences.
For more information on this oral history, please contact the Director of the Center for Oral History.
The interview begins with Frank Westheimer discussing his family, his undergraduate days at Dartmouth, and his choice of Harvard for graduate work. He talks about his research with James Conant, Elmer Kohler, and his early interest in biochemistry in the mid-1930s. Westheimer continues with the offer of a position at the University of Chicago from Morris Kharasch. The interview concludes with more discussion of physical organic chemistry, a review of his work on the hydrolysis of phosphate esters and pseudorotation; comments on the future of organic chemistry; and a review of the Westheimer Report, the analysis of American chemistry by the National Academy of Sciences.
Judith M. White grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attending Franklin and Marshall College as a member of its first coeducational class; she was the only female chemistry major. Carl Pike, her biology teacher and lab supervisor, inspired her interest in biology. She spent two summers doing research, first at University of Rochester, and then at Bryn Mawr College. For graduate school White chose the biophysics program at Harvard University, again the only woman in her class. She completed her thesis work in Don Wiley’s lab, intrigued by the ability of viruses to insert their DNAs into cells. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), recruited White to help build a cell biology program. She still focuses on membranes but with a broader scope that includes a virological/pharmacological perspective. While working on the Semliki Forest virus, White discovered the importance of pH in surface fusion or lack thereof.
For more information on Alexander Whitehead, please visit the Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences.
Torsten N. Wiesel was born near Stockholm, Sweden. He attended medical school at Karolinska Institute and worked there before coming to the United States as a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University. There he worked on epilepsy. One of his brothers had become schizophrenic, which prompted Torsten's interest in neuroscience. Working in Kuttler's lab, he dealt with retinal ganglion receptive fields/responses to light stimulation, using cats and monkeys as his lab animals. David Hubel arrived at Hopkins, and the two men began a very long collaboration that in 1981 garnered them the Nobel Prize. In 1983, after Torsten had been chairman for ten years, he moved to Rockefeller University and became president. He is now Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program in Strasbourg.