Recorded: 22 Jul 2003
Well, as I remember he maintained a dual interest both in setting up his lab which was a great challenge for him cause he’d never done that before. And as you know he took off the first year to go back to Europe in order to organize his thoughts and decide what he was going to do. And that was very useful for him.
But at the same time he—from the very beginning had the vision of trying to see what Harvard could be rather than what it was. And there was an enormous investment in the Biology Deptarment in Organismic Biology, hunters and trappers as they tended to be called. And he thought this was a resource that ought to be reassigned.
Well, I think that he brought a focus on protein synthesis. And that was a gutsy thing for him to do because he had no training in chemistry, really or biochemistry. And it was clear that it would be a highly competitive field. So he took quite a risk to follow his instinct and stick with a major problem even though he wasn’t very well trained for it.
Paul Doty (1920-2011), biophysical chemist and activist was an emeritus professor at Harvard University in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and in the Kennedy School of Government. He was also founder of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. Experimenting with isotope separation as a graduate student at Columbia University, he became an advocate for nuclear war prevention. Subsequently, he served as a consultant to the President’s Science Advisory Committee and as a member of the President’s Arms Control Advisory Group.
Doty’s scientific research is focused on elucidating the structure and function of large molecules by optical methods. Responsible for hybridizing single strands of DNA to reform an active double-stranded molecule, his laboratory work helped provide the basis for DNA recombination.
Doty met Jim in 1952 in Cambridge. Four years later he had encouraged Jim to join the Harvard Faculty. Their combined insight and innovation was crucial in determining the fate of the newly created molecular biology department. Doty remained on the Harvard Faculty for over forty-two years.