Edward Lewis on Max Delbruck
  Edward Lewis     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

I played chess with [Max Delbrück] one time at Cold Spring Harbor. I won one out of three games or something because he liked to play very fast. He didn’t like to sit and study a chessboard. So a chi-square test wouldn’t show significant difference between us. Max would get up at every talk and [ask] some good questions usually and terrify the poor speaker. But he just had a brilliant mind [and he was] a very good experimentalist. He wanted to understand everything thoroughly. Those were the basic principles involved. He did a lot to bring the whole phage community together and brought them together here, [at] symposiums. We had many seminars. He would bring all types of people here and had very informal talks. He was very gifted to get people to present unpublished data and other ideas that were floating around. [He] worked very hard to figure out about DNA: what is a gene and what chemical will replicate itself? And he never got it, never got it. The idea of a double molecule escaped him, and [Linus] Pauling didn’t get it. Pauling gave great seminars in which he had three helices but it didn’t make any sense genetically. [At] any rate, Delbrück was a big force here and many faculty listened to anything he had to say and it was a great pronouncement. He gave a lecture on a course he was giving on the bithorax and it was very well done.

One time I had his notes that he gave afterwards and I asked him to autograph them and he wouldn’t. I thought that was a little strange.

Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004) was a renowned leader in genetics and Drosophila development research. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1942. He served as captain of the United States Army Air Force from 1942-1945 as a meteorologist and an oceanographer in the Pacific Theatre. In 1946, he joined the Caltech faculty and was appointed Professor of Biology in 1956, earning a Thomas Hunt Morgan Professorship in 1966. In 1995, Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development” along with Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus. Lewis is also a recipient of the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal (1983), the Gairdner Foundation International award (1987), the Wolf Foundation prize in medicine (1989), the Rosenstiel award (1990) and the National Medal of Science (1990).