Recorded: 04 Jun 2001
I came back to Cambridge and I finished something that I had started on respiratory enzymes and went back to Cambridge and continued with that type of work, but then I was wondering what I would do next. This is when Jim made contact with me. Jim was rather sensitive to the building like the Gibbs building. I talked to Jim about experiments and he talked to me about science. That's at least how, I must say something more concise. I was studying what you find in extracts from bacteria, for example E. Coli. You get juice if you break the cells, and you get juice and you analyze this juice to find out what there is in this juice. There was an analytical centrifuge in one of the labs, no actually at the Molteno. I put my extracts in this centrifuge and we found that there were two symmetrical peaks, which were major components of the extracts. So I started talking to Jim Watson about that and he thought there was some kind of an interesting thing, and after awhile we realized that this was something which had been studied at other places for instance the Rockefeller Institute or Cambridge, Massachusetts. And the goal at that time was ribonucleo –protein articles.
Jim realized this is what was being studied in other places. Jim got interested in that and we talked and this took some years. And then I said to him I will continue working on this. Jim was, he had at the time, been made an assistant professor at Harvard. One day he came to my room and said why don't you join me to work on this virus course. I didn't answer him cause I didn't want to decide certainly at that moment but then I thought a little more about this for several months, probably three months, I said to Jim, “Okay I accept your suggestion.” That's how I joined, Jim was already at Harvard. So that's when I began working with him.
Wait, so DNA was discovered and the paper was published in '53 and, of course, Jim was talking to me about DNA because he had some duff discussion with other scientists so on and so forth, he was explaining to me why they were all fools and didn't understand. So Jim thought it would be nice to work on those particles. Particularly, there were some indications in Europe, but also at Rockefeller, that those particles were going to turn out to be the place where proteins were made. This is what we call ribosomes.
Alfred Tissières was a biologist, biochemist and geneticist. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge for his work at the Molteno Institute and subsequently did postdoctoral work on respiratory enzymes at Caltech under Max Delbruck.
Soon after returning to Cambridge, Watson suggested he come to Harvard to work on microsomal particles in E. coli.
At Harvard, Tissières and Jim discovered that ribosomes were made of two unequal pieces, each containing protein and RNA. Tissieres began a professorship at the University of Geneva where his laboratory has become prominent in the field of ribosome research.
Alfred first attended a symposium at Cold Spring Harbor in 1961 and when Jim Watson became director, Tissières would regularly visit with his family during the summer.