Tom Maniatis on Barbara McClintock
  Tom Maniatis     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Mar 2003

So when I was there she was right down the hall from me. And I saw her nearly every day.

So, my lab was in Demerec and her lab was as well. And so I would run into her nearly every day. It was mostly just small talk, how are you and so on. But she was very warm and very open. A very inquisitive person. And she would always ask, you know, how things were and she would want to know what your experiments were. And she came to every seminar when I was there. She always sat in front and she always had a question. And it was really amazing that she had such a broad range of interests.

One of the things that I think I remember from her the most is that—so we’d go to a seminar and there’d just be this amazing result that somebody would do this and that, I mean, connections that one wouldn’t have even thought of. So I was walking out with her and I said something like, “Isn’t that astonishing?” And she said, how was it, she said that, “Anything that man can imagine has been done by nature.” And that’s just the way she saw things is that she said that, “Every possible combination of mechanisms and events that one can even image have already been done by nature.” And that’s the way she thought about things.

I spent a few, I’d say several times I sat with her in her office and spoke with her and her lab and office was like walking into a time warp. I mean you walk in and there are sheaths of corn, you know, around on desk and so on. It was very quiet and very calm and she kind of emitted that herself. When you sat down and talked with her there’s a peacefulness about her, sort of a self assurance that was really very visible, you know, and so sitting with her and talking some science was real pleasure. And she, you know, she was one of the few people, I think, that reached the stature that she did that had no airs at all. I mean she was just a wonderfully warm and simple person.

Tom Maniatis, molecular biologist, is a leader in the field of recombinant DNA. At Vanderbilt University he completed his Ph.D. studying DNA wide-angle scattering. He became a postdoctoral fellow and professor at Harvard University and met Jim Watson just before he became director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

While Maniatis was beginning experimentation with cDNA cloning and gene regulation of higher cells, the controversy over recombinant DNA in Cambridge stunted his progression. Watson offered Maniatis a position at CSHL where he could work more efficiently to understand the methods of recombinant DNA. At CSHL, Maniatis completed full-length synthesis of double stranded DNA and actual cloning of cDNA.

He is currently a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University studying the mechanisms involved in the regulation of RNA transciption and pre-messenger RNA splicing. He studies transcription to understand how eukaryotic genes are activated by viral infection and extracellular signals.