Maynard Olson on National Academy of Sciences Committee
  Maynard Olson     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

I should have probably brought some notes, but I think it was in the fall of ’86, if I—yeah, I think the committee was pulled together in the fall of ‘86. The symposium would have been in the spring of ’86. And it finally, it worked for a little over a year and issued its report, I think, right at the very beginning of ’88. I hope the date’s right there on the record. But the—and that was a very, that actually committee played a very important role in getting the project on a trajectory that ensured its eventual success. And there were compromises that were not just—you know sometimes compromises are, you got some really good ideas and some really bad ideas and you come up with a mediocre idea as a kind of a compromise to keep people on board. But the concept of the program at the end of the committee was stronger than any of the concepts that came into it.

Maynard V. Olson received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from California Institute of Technology and Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Stanford University (1970). After five years on the chemistry faculty at Dartmouth College, he shifted his research efforts to molecular genetics at Washington University in St Louis and the University of Washington in Seattle. He now serves as Director of the University of Washington Human Genome Center, Professor of Genetics and Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science & Engineering.

A pioneer in genomic research, Dr. Olson launched the ultimately successful effort to construct a detailed physical map of the yeast genome in 1979. He also led efforts to develop yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) that allowed for the study of large portions of the human genome and proved invaluable in the tracking of disease-related genes, and he introduced STS-content mapping which led to the first physical maps of whole human chromosomes.

Dr. Olson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal, the City of Medicine Award, and the Gairdner Foundation International Award for his scientific contributions to the Human Genome Project.

Influenced by Watson’s book, Molecular Biology of the Gene, Olsen started working with the genome in the 1970’s. He met Jim Watson when they both served on Bruce Albert’s Committee of the National Research Council. Olsen also helped to organize several genome meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory during the 1980s.