H. Robert Horvitz on CSHL Symposia: Past & Present
  H. Robert Horvitz     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

Well, I think I would generalize the meetings and the symposiums together. The picture in my mind of an early-day Cold Spring Harbor meeting, in a room with card table chairs and a speaker in shorts and a T-shirt using a fishing rod as a pointer is certainly different from the style of many of the current talks at Cold Spring Harbor meetings. Cold Spring Harbor itself is certainly different from Cold Spring Harbor the days when I first saw it. It’s become much grander; the buildings are much nicer, the accommodations are vastly nicer, which has many beneficial attributes. But I think with that has come a little bit more formality. I mean, the trees are bigger and it’s not just because it’s a later date. Some of them were actually brought in and planted to put bigger trees on the grounds. The ski slope that John Cairns had on the hill is no longer used for that kind of casual encounter, and has a very different look to it, I’m told. I didn’t see it as a ski slope, but I did see it soon afterward and it basically looked the same. I think the answer is Cold Spring Harbor has become a bigger, wealthier, and more formal place. The science always at the soul of the laboratory has consciously been developed to interface more broadly. I think that has made much of the style a little bit more formal than what it was.

H. Robert Horvitz received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University, under the tutelage of Jim Watson. He joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978, and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is also Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute in 2001.

Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. In 2002, he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston “for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'."

Horvitz currently studies how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He has elucidated a molecular genetic pathway for programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is fundamental to nervous system development in all animals.