Edward Lewis on Thoughts about Politics and Science
  Edward Lewis     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

I go to all the meetings every year, so I meet all the young people that way. And here [at Caltech] Ray Owen and Norm Horwitz are around and I see them almost daily and we talk.

Recently Norm [???] and I have been complaining bitterly, argumentatively speaking. [We] had a bitter discussion about an accepted Templeton grant for a course on religion and we complained bitterly about it. These people are promoting an extreme Christian Right philosophy. Do you know the Templeton Foundation? They give a course for $10,000 so a professor can do some stuff. This really infuriated us. Norm and I are going to have them stopped so they will never do that again.

The professor who accepted didn't realize...he didn't know anything about the Templeton Foundation. What’s bad is [that] the administration should have [turned it down]. It’s such a small amount of money; who cares who gave the $10,000! It’s so trivial, the way we work around the millions of dollars. I shouldn’t tell you that intimate stuff.

I spent most of my life fighting the radiation-promoting people and the atomic energy commission saying that there is no effect from fallout when in fact the kids were being affected from our Nevada tests. I wrote papers about [this]. Leukemia, which you can derive the rate at which it arises, it’s a very low rate of risk. But just the fact that we calculated the rate was enough to infuriate the agency. I had some of the physicists help me with the calculations but the administration here was very AEC-prone with these people. So I had a bad time with these people. Yeah, I never quit.

I fought very well against most that were bigger than I was. I do like to stand up for things that need standing up in the academic world.

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).