Recorded: 11 May 2001
It was one lecture for afternoon, so he [Al Hershey] talked an hour and hour and a half, two hours and there was discussion for another hour until nobody had anything more to say and was ready to leave. We never were cut off in the discussion; it was going as it was going. If it didn’t finish, then we had to finish and there was more discussion at the beginning of the next session so to finish it. There was ample time for discussion, that’s a big difference. But that I’m saying, in the early ’50s there was an explosion of science and amount of science etc. It started to be different.
I wrote about it partially in the book about Hershey. I can’t remember what I wrote so whatever I would say I would repeat myself. It’s very difficult not to repeat—but I heard about Hershey. I was still in Copenhagen because Copenhagen was very different they have co-education type of dormitories and I spent so many dormitories with men and women in the same dormitories. It was unheard of in the United States at that time. And just arrived, new girl from United States, her name was Bronfenbrener (?). And, she was daughter of Professor Bronfenbrener…who was the boss of Hershey. So I heard from her about Hershey, not knowing that I would meet him because he wasn’t in Cold Spring Harbor. He was at Missouri or St. Louis, somewhere in the Midwest, he was…so anyway, I heard that he was so brilliant and that he was so quiet and that he was such a character, etc. etc. I heard from her. I think she was washing dishes for him, or something. So when I arrived at Cold Spring Harbor, I found out that he is here. Cause that was the year or two before I moved to Cold Spring Harbor. And I did not meet him when I came for interview with Demerec [when Demerec] says that the job I have to wait, I should have, because he [Tsu] had that job. But only of technicians, so Demerec thought I wouldn’t take [the job] since I was a Ph.D. etc., but I would have taken because he, instead of me, he hired—Hershey hired Martha Chase, so I would have done this experiment. Because I has just took courses in radioactive tracers in Copenhagen, and ideally suited to do the experiment with Hershey. So I am sorry because it was a very good experiment so you see how fate did this.
Waclaw Szybalski is an authority on molecular biology, genetics and microbiology. He earned his Ph.D. at the Gdansk Institute of Technology in Poland and joined the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1950s where he is now Professor Emeritus of Oncology in the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research.
Szybalski is known for the many significant contributions he has made throughout his career, beginning with his studies on mutagenesis and continuing through his contributions to genomics. He was among the first to formulate the concept of multi-drug antibiotic therapy.
Szybalski has also participated in the Human Genome Project.
Szybalski is the founder and head of many editorial boards including that of the journal Gene.
A long-time meeting and course participant at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Szybalski was a friend and contemporary of many pioneers in the field of genetics, including Alfred Hershey, Martha Chase, Max Delbrück, and Barbara McClintock.