Recorded: 01 Jun 2000
I remember one time she had gotten some infection in South America and she was quite ill. She was in the hospital. I called her in the hospital and asked her how she was feeling and she brushed it off. I said something about [being] sorry she had to go through this. And she said, “Oh, but Evelyn. It’s so interesting!” She was participating with the doctors and trying to figure out what this strange infection was! And that was very typical.
Evelyn Witkin is a leading bacterial geneticist. She earned her Ph.D. in 1947 with Theodosius Dobzhansky at Columbia University for her Drosophila research. Her interests evolved from Drosophila genetics to bacterial genetics, and she spent the summer of 1944 at Cold Spring Harbor, where she isolated a radiation-resistant mutant of E. coli. Witkin remained at the Carnegie Institution Department of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor until 1955.
In 1971, she was appointed Professor of Biological Sciences at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and was named Barbara McClintock Professor of Genetics in 1979. Witkin moved to the Wakeman Institute at Rutgers University in 1983. Among her many honors are membership in the National Academy of Sciences (1977), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1980), American Women of Science Award for Outstanding Research, and Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.