Paul Doty on Developing Molecular Biology at Harvard
  Paul Doty     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Jul 2003

We were both interested in seeing how molecular biology would develop here at Harvard and what we could do to give it a lift. And from the very beginning he was concerned with the essential details. We would, I remember, make a list of all of the professors of biology in the age of retirement and begin playing the game of what—who we could promote when that opening come soon to be. And he got along very well with [McGeorge] Bundy who was the dean then. And that—in fact, Bundy’s influence helped by my stimulation was what got him promoted to tenure. I think it wouldn’t have happened without that. And then when he became a member of the tenured group, he had a much more platformed group influence who was going to be appointed. But as E.O. Wilson says in his biography that the faculty meetings at that time tended to be like a gathering of chieftains about the waterhole. And so there were lots of tense moments and he was not given to being polite. But he kept his nose on things that he thought he could influence and for the most part he succeeded.

Paul Doty (1920-2011), biophysical chemist and activist was an emeritus professor at Harvard University in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and in the Kennedy School of Government. He was also founder of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. Experimenting with isotope separation as a graduate student at Columbia University, he became an advocate for nuclear war prevention. Subsequently, he served as a consultant to the President’s Science Advisory Committee and as a member of the President’s Arms Control Advisory Group.

Doty’s scientific research is focused on elucidating the structure and function of large molecules by optical methods. Responsible for hybridizing single strands of DNA to reform an active double-stranded molecule, his laboratory work helped provide the basis for DNA recombination.

Doty met Jim in 1952 in Cambridge. Four years later he had encouraged Jim to join the Harvard Faculty. Their combined insight and innovation was crucial in determining the fate of the newly created molecular biology department. Doty remained on the Harvard Faculty for over forty-two years.