David Botstein on CSHL Memories
  David Botstein     Biography    
Recorded: 28 May 2003

I mean the way they used to do business—I mean one of the stories I remember from our sabbatical was—the sabbatical was occasioned because Gerry Fink and John Roth and I wanted to get together for a year. This was the beginning of yeast research here. We wanted to get together for a year. And we had applied to the Salk Institute lab program for this kind of thing. And when we went to the Salk Institute—actually only Roth went. And they told Roth they don’t want yeast. Why? Because it would contaminate their cultures. We wrote learned things about how yeast doesn’t grow in their medium. That the yeast that they’re thinking of is a different yeast—Candida albican has nothing to do with Saccharomyces cerevisiae all to no avail. We finally got really annoyed at them. And I happened to see Jim somewhere and Jim told me they had resurrected or renovated Davenport and would we like to spend the year in Davenport. And we would live on the grounds and we loved that idea. So we said, yeah, we’ll come. We got a little NSF [National Science Foundation] grant, we got a technician. And we moved here. Now, of course, Davenport did not have any heavy equipment and so one of the things we wanted, we needed was a centrifuge, an ultracentrifuge. There was no ultracentrifuge there. So we brought it and they used an interesting mode of transportation. They had to get a backhoe and they put the centrifuge on the backhoe and they had it halfway across the lawn and then they dropped it. And then they picked it back up off the backhoe and then they installed it and of course it didn’t run. So then we called Spinco -- Beckman. And Beckman came; the guy looked at it and said, “What’s this big dent on this side?” And so, you know, we’re scientists so we say we’re not going to lie to you, we dropped it off the backhoe. And he said, “That’s the best excuse I ever heard, “and he fixed it for free.

David Botstein is a prominent geneticist whose advocacy for gene mapping was crucial in laying the groundwork for the Human Genome Project. Botstein received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan for his research on bacteriophage synthesis. As a member of the MIT faculty he continued working with phage P22 DNA and discovered many bacterial and yeast genes. He served as Vice President of Science at Genentech before becoming professor at the Stanford School of Medicine where he led in sequencing the first large eucaryotic genome.

On July 1, 2003 he was appointed as Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. At Princeton he will continue to expound upon genome projects, explore the relationship between genes within the genome, and uncover how diseases like cancer alter the expression of genes.

Botstein researched at the CSHL while on sabbatical from 1974-1975. At the 1986 CSHL symposium on Human Genetics he played a crucial role in advocating for the Human Genome Project. While serving on the National Research Council Committee he emphasized that money be laid aside to fund the sequencing of other simpler organisms with which the human genome can be compared. Like Jim Watson, he has passionately supported the Human Genome Project since its inception.