Recorded: 23 Jun 2000
The situation was that UCLA department of science history had a program called oral history. And there was a lady called Caroline Kopp and she picked Max Delbruck and she visited him at the California Institute of Technology and conducted several interviews with him, which she transcribed. And while she looked at the transcript, she decided that she cannot write his biography and she told him
And it’s very—well argument. She said, “You’re a person with two languages; German and English, with several sciences; biology, physiology, bacterial genetics. You are a person involved in too many science organizational projects in Germany, in the United States and that is too much for a science historian who actually does study science.” I mean, how can she know molecular biology, quantum theory, ______ physiology at the same time. If you take a scientist with one language; American, English, one field, physics and just really one topic, let’s see, elementary particle physics. That’s okay, but she cannot cover the whole field.
And Delbruck realized that she was right, but he also did not like that a nice work that had started so well was left to go. And then it happened that the Sloan Foundation offered him to write his autobiography.
Ernst Peter Fischer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Constance since 1994. He studied mathematics and physics in Cologne and biology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned Ph.D. in biology and qualified as a professor in the history of science.
He has published biographies of Max Delbrück, Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli and James D. Watson and received several awards for his scientific publications. Fischer is an author of such books as "Die andere Bildung", "Selling science - The history of Boehringer Mannheim" and "Das Genom" - an introduction into modern genome research.
He has been honoured with the Heinrich-Bechold-Medaille (1980), Preis der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft Freiburg (1981); Lorenz-Oken-Medaille (2002), Treviranus-Medaille (2003) and Eduard-Rhein-Kulturpreis (2003).