Maynard Olson on Spirituality & Science
  Maynard Olson     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

They obviously can be because there are plenty of them that are. You know right now as you’re interviewing me, Francis Collins is giving a public lecture up in the lecture hall in Grace and you know he’s made very clear in his public discussions that he is deeply religious. And so obviously people can be. I won’t speak for how Francis Collins or how many others scientists sort of reconcile what to me are not easily reconciled views of nature, but that’s me. They—I think religion and science will co-exist. They will continue to co-exist as far as the eye can see.

I don’t think that they are compatible. But the human population at large does. And is able to reconcile highly divergent views of the world. And I think most people—I think the situation twenty years from now will be a lot like it is now. It is that they’ll be, you know, people like me will be a relatively fringe influence. You know, there’ve always been atheists and there always will be. But I don’t think that they’re going to grow in numbers just because we’ve sequenced a genome.

Maynard V. Olson received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from California Institute of Technology and Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Stanford University (1970). After five years on the chemistry faculty at Dartmouth College, he shifted his research efforts to molecular genetics at Washington University in St Louis and the University of Washington in Seattle. He now serves as Director of the University of Washington Human Genome Center, Professor of Genetics and Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science & Engineering.

A pioneer in genomic research, Dr. Olson launched the ultimately successful effort to construct a detailed physical map of the yeast genome in 1979. He also led efforts to develop yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) that allowed for the study of large portions of the human genome and proved invaluable in the tracking of disease-related genes, and he introduced STS-content mapping which led to the first physical maps of whole human chromosomes.

Dr. Olson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal, the City of Medicine Award, and the Gairdner Foundation International Award for his scientific contributions to the Human Genome Project.

Influenced by Watson’s book, Molecular Biology of the Gene, Olsen started working with the genome in the 1970’s. He met Jim Watson when they both served on Bruce Albert’s Committee of the National Research Council. Olsen also helped to organize several genome meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory during the 1980s.