Sydney Brenner on Alfred Hershey, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  Sydney Brenner     Biography    
Recorded: 10 Jun 2002
Well, Al I think—Al is a perfect—you see, Al is a very interesting character. I met him for the first time at Cold Spring Harbor that year, but I’d read all of his papers, you see. And also from when he was in St. Louis and I thought that he was, you know, that he was really a great man. And Al Hershey was a real scientists’ scientist.

Because he took apart what—I mean, for example, some of the work he did later on DNA molecules are very simple, beautiful experiments. He was able to show that most of the stuff people were looking at were artifacts, you know. And it was only by those very—he was also a very gifted writer.

In fact, I learned only quite—you know, after some time I knew him that he wanted to be a writer, he told me that. And that in St. Louis he gave up science to try to write. But his papers were beautifully written. And he was a great writer and I think a scientists’ scientist.

And when I heard—to me the greatest praise I’ve ever had is that when they told me that Hershey would work with me if I became the director, I thought, “That’s—Boy! That’s top praise.”

Sydney Brenner is a pioneer in the field of molecular biology. He was born in South Africa in 1927 and received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1954. From 1979 to 1986 he served as Director of the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology and from 1986 to 1991, as the Director of the Medical Research Council Laboratory Molecular Genetics Unit, both in Cambridge, England.

Since 1996 he has been the President and Director of Science at the Molecular Sciences Institute in La Jolla and Berkeley. Brenner was honored as a Distinguished Research Professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla in 2000.

In 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with Dr. John Sulston and Dr. Robert Horvitz “for their discoveries concerning ‘genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death’” studying the organism C. elegans.