Joshua Lederberg

Born: May 23, 1925 | Montclair, NJ, US
Died: Saturday, February 2, 2008 | New York City, NY, US

Joshua Lederberg begins the interview by discussing his involvement in contamination issues of planetary exploration. Lederberg recalls his work to develop alternatives to the man-in-space" program, as well as his time on several national committees for both planetary exploration and health-related matters. Additionally, Lederberg discusses writing his column, the environment at Stanford University during the Cold War, and his thoughts on U. S. defense projects. "

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0199
No. of pages: 30
Minutes: 66

Interview Sessions

Audra J. Wolfe
18 August 2000
Rockefeller University, New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Joshua Lederberg begins the interview with a discussion of his involvement in the contamination issues of planetary exploration. As interest in space exploration gained momentum, Lederberg was in the midst of discussion regarding protecting the Earth from possible extraterrestrial contamination. Lederberg felt that more emphasis needed to be placed on building a sound space program, one that focused more on planetary research rather than sending humans into space. Lederberg worked to develop alternatives to the “man-in-space” program, focusing on the importance for international cooperation. Lederberg served on several national committees, including the Space Science Board and the Kennedy Health Transition Team. After receiving the Nobel Prize in 1958, Lederberg joined the faculty of Stanford University, where he continued his life-long research in the genetic structure and function in microorganisms. Lederberg continued to be actively involved in artificial intelligence research and in the NASA experimental programs seeking life on Mars. He has also been a consultant on health-related matters for both the U. S. and international communities, serving on the World Health Organization's Advisory Health Research Council. Lederberg wrote his own column on a wide variety of topics, both scientific and non-scientific. Lederberg concludes the interview with a discussion of the environment at Stanford University during the Cold War and thoughts on U. S. defense projects. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1944 Columbia University BA Biology
1947 Yale University PhD Microbiology

Professional Experience

US Navy

1943 to 1945
V-12 and Hospital Corps: Ens. USNR

Columbia University

1945 to 1946
Research Assistant, Zoology

Yale University

1946 to 1947
Research Fellow, Jane Coffin Childs Fund for Medical Research

University of Wisconsin, Madison

1947 to 1950
Assistant Professor of Genetics
1950 to 1954
Associate Professor of Genetics
1954 to 1959
Professor of Genetics
1957 to 1959
Chair, Department of Medical Genetics

University of California, Berkeley

1950
Visiting Professor of Bacteriology

University of Melbourne

1957
Visiting Professor of Bacteriology

Stanford University School of Medicine

1959 to 1978
Professor of Genetics, Biology, and Computer Science
1959 to 1978
Chairman, Department of Genetics

The Rockefeller University

1978 to 1990
President
1990 to 2001
University Professor Emeritus

Honors

Year(s) Award
1957

National Academy of Sciences

1958

Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

1960

Sc. D. (honorary), Yale University

1961

Alexander Hamilton Award, Columbia University

1961

Wilbur Cross Medal, Yale University

1961

Proctor Medal, Sigma Xi

1967

Sc. D. (honorary), University of Wisconsin

1967

Sc. D. (honorary), Columbia University

1969

M.D. (honorary), University of Turin

1970

Sc. D. (honorary), Yeshiva University

1979

Litt. D (honorary) Jewish Theological Seminary

1979

Foreign Member, Royal Academy of Sciences

1979

LL. D. (honorary), University of Pennsylvania

1980

Honrary Life Member, New York Academy of Sciences

1981

Sc. D. (honorary), Rutgers University

1981

Honorary Fellow, New York Academy of Medicine

1982

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

1982

Fellow, American Philosophical Society

1982

Fellow, American Academy of the Arts and Sciences

1984

Sc. D. (honorary), New York University

1985

M.D. (honorary), Tufts University

1988

Distinguished Service Medal, Columbia University

1989

National Medal of Science

1991

D.Phil. (honorary), Tel Aviv University

1993

Founding Member, Académie Universelle des Cultures

1995

Allen Newell Award, Association for Computing Machinery

1996

John Stearns Award for Lifetime Achievement, New York Academy of Medicine

1997

Mayor's Award in Science and Technology, City of New York

1997

Maxwell Finland Award, National Foundation of Infectious Diseases

1998

Dr. Mil. Med. (honorary), USUHS

Table of Contents

Planetary Exploration
1

Contamination issue. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Quarantine versus sterilization. Fort Detrick. Space Science Board (SSB). Committee on Contamination by Extraterrestrial Exploration (CETEX). Role of biology. Multivator. Space Programs. Man-in-space program. Carl Sagan. Searching for academic support. John F. Kennedy. International cooperation.

Committee and Federal Involvement
9

Kennedy Health Transition Team. University of Wisconsin Genetics Department. Arthur Kornberg. Winning Nobel Prize. Euphenics. Call for a National Academy of Medicine. Declining service on President's Science Advisory Committee. National Science Foundation (NSF). National Institutes of Health (NIH). Biological and chemical warfare. National security involvement. Committee on Disarmament. Department of Defense. World Health Organization (WHO).

Written Contributions
16

Harriet Zuckerman. Robert K. Merton. Freedom in writing column. Requests for interviews. Choosing column topics. Writing on non-science topics. Salvador E. Luria.

Conclusion
20

Environment at Stanford University in the 1960s. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Thoughts on Cold War. Student protests at Stanford.

Notes
26
Index
27

About the Interviewer

Audra J. Wolfe