Robert Martiennsen on Barbara McClintock’s Personality
  Robert Martiennsen     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Feb 2001

Certainly she was a very personable and friendly person, who liked to talk. She gossiped and she had a lot of interest in what was going on at the lab, but certainly science was the foundation of everything that we talked about. I think that’s true. I didn't really talk a great deal about her family history and other sorts of things. She had a sort of stock repertoire of stories that she would tell all journalists and people who were interested in interviewing her for various reasons I could go through all those again but you've probably heard them all anyway. So most of my memories of her are really centered around science and the interest that I had in that area and actually still do. I mean, the impact of her thinking on gene expression and the impact of genome organization on gene expression was really very ahead of its time and its really only now that we're beginning to see the implications for it. There's a whole new field called epigenetic which, in many important respects, she founded. I mean, she wouldn't have called it epigenetics. In fact, she'd probably be upset by that sort of name. She had very firm opinions about some things like that. But really her initial work on the phenomena that she called presetting and cycling and transposable elements were epigenetic phenomena, some of the first to be properly described, and really that’s one of the foundations of that field. So that’s really my strongest memories of her [and] about her discussions of that, those issues

Rob Martienssen is a plant molecular geneticist and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1986 and did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.

As a young scientist, he worked closely with Barbara McClintock. He currently studies plant epigenetics and development using functional genomics. He was awarded the Kumho International Science Award in Plant Biology and Biotechnology (2001).