Recorded: 02 Jun 2003
So what to recall about it. I mean-well, I mean I remember the famous debate down in the front. I remember all of the argument over how this was going to suck up all the money of biology. Some of my senior colleagues were very worried about that. How this wouldn't be good for young scientists. I know I thought it would be great for young scientists. I was coming as a mathematician. That was my background. The thought that one could ever get that much data and you might be able to approach problems systematically without much data was just-it was just wonderful. I raised my hands a couple of times during the debate. I was one of the few young people who did raise his hand during the debate and after that Maxine Singer and Paul Berg came over to me after the meeting-after that debate and said, "Oh, we really liked what you said. Come have dinner." So we sat in Blackford. We had dinner and it was the first time that I think anybody outside of the couple of people I knew at MIT had known who I was and took me off and took care of me. I think from that not long thereafter as meetings got held at the NIH on the human genome project, I got invited to participate in those meetings. Back then there were no experts and so it was pretty easy to be an expert and there were very few people who knew anything mathematical and computational and well as biological. I think if I hadn't been at that debate and had not gotten a little bit involved maybe I would have never gotten involved in the human genome project.
Eric Lander earned his A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University (1978) and D.Phil. in mathematics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University (1981).
He first came to the Whitehead Institute as a Whitehead Fellow in 1986, while still an assistant professor of managerial economics at the Harvard Business School and is currently Director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research and Professor of Biology at MIT. As director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research, Dr Lander has been one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, contributing 30 percent of the total sequence of the human genome and developing and making freely available many of the key tools used in modern mammalian genomics.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and has been awarded the Beckman Prize for Lab Automation, the Chiron Prize for Biotechnology, and the Gairdner Award for his outstanding contribution to genomic research.
Lander has attended every human genome meeting at CSHL. At the request of Jim Watson, Lander gave his first lecture at the 1986 CSHL symposium on the Molecular Biology of Homo Sapiens.