Recorded: 01 Mar 2003
So Al Hershey was a wonderful man but a most difficult man to get to know in any way. He was very quiet. He did not waste any words. And so there was unlike most social interactions there was hardly any small talk ever. And if you wanted to kind of smooth the way and get conversations going, you really had to do all the work yourself because he didn’t operate that way. On the other hand when he did talk and when he did give help it was always so very wonderful because it was always very much to the point. It was confusing to me at first on how to deal with this person who was kind of odd in a way. And my solution to the problem was to try to make believe he was normal and forget all this oddity. And you know, I think he appreciated it because I’m sure he must have put off a lot of people. But I really admired him immensely and I think he liked me as well.
…He was very much involved after I left in editing books. I would come and when I visited Cold Spring Harbor for meetings I would go up and visit him in his home. He was at the time—early on he was doing things like making wine and I remember he gave me a bottle of dandelion wine that he had made. And I could not bring myself to drink it because it was so very precious. So I saved this dandelion wine for many, many years until ultimately of course it was no longer drinkable. I had to toss it out. He was really extraordinary.
Anna Marie Skalka, microbiologist, molecular biologist and geneticist is Senior Vice President for Basic Science and director of the Institute for Cancer Research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She completed her Ph.D. at New York University Medical School in 1964 and came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to continue her graduate work on bacteriophage under Al Hershey. In 1969 she left for the Roche Institute for Molecular Biology and eventually she turned her attention to retroviruses.
At Fox Chase Medical Center, Skalka studies molecular aspects of retroviral replication and hopes to uncover mechanisms of retroviral DNA integration. She has become interested in virally coded integrase, which catalyzes the integration of retroviral DNA into the host cell’s genome. Considering that stable integration of viral DNA into the host cell genome is essential for replication of retroviruses, her studies are important in developing antiviral drugs to treat AIDS.