Recorded: 17 Jul 2002
Once when I was at Cold Spring Harbor and Jim and I were walking down, is it called Bungtown Road? We passed Demerec’s house, which was not in very good repair at the time. This was before John Cairns. Jim pointed at the house and he said, “I’m going to live in that house someday.” That’s what he wanted.
Here at Harvard he would not have succeeded if he was all alone. Because I don’t think the Deans trusted Jim, nor the President. He was just beyond them. But there were some very solid figures who were trusted, like [E.J.] Corey and [R.B.] Woodward when he was alive and Paul Doty and several others who would say, yes this is right, we should do this.
I was offered a job here without tenure and I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole—at that time, now maybe it’s different. No, it’s not different. It’s not that much different because Harvard has always tried to pick from the whole world field and not just from its own junior faculty.
Matthew Meselson earned his Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago in 1951 and from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 under the tutelage of Linus Pauling.
In 1958 with Frank Stahl, Meselson experimentally showed the semi-conservative mechanism of DNA replication as predicted by Watson and Crick.
He is currently the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences in Harvard University's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. His laboratory studies sexual reproduction and genetic recombination, and how and why they are maintained in evolution.
Since 1963 Meselson has been interested in chemical and biological defense and arms control, has served as a consultant on this subject to various government agencies and is a member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
Meselson has received the Award in Molecular Biology from the National Academy of Sciences, the Public Service Award of the Federation of American Scientists, the Presidential Award of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and the 1995 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal of the Genetics Society of America. Dr. Meselson is presently a member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.