David E. Muller on N.V. Timofeev-Resovskii
  David E. Muller     Biography    
Recorded: 15 Jul 2004

Timofeev-Resovskii was the head of the institute and he was a very fine man. He was able to prevent them from doing anything to the Jews who lived at the institute for the most part. I don’t know specifically of any cases in which Jews were taken away from homes, but as it said in the notes. We lived in these apartments which had steel doors and bars on the windows and things like that. They hoped they would be impregnable. So he apparently ran the institute and apparently also his prestige was so great that they allowed him to do that. They didn’t dare go against Timofeev-Resovskii in that respect. I’m sure that changed later, but not while we were there. But many of our friends like the people across the hallway from us were trying to escape from Germany. I had a good friend, al little boy about my age whose parent were leaving and they were going to escape to South Africa. They thought they could be safe, you know. This happened all the time. It was the beginning of the Nazi period and it culminated I guess about a year later or so when Hitler became chancellor. But before that he was only an unofficial power. He had the power of all these troops but he wasn’t part of the government at that time. The flag was officially still the old German flag.

MP: So what is this Green Army? Was it in Leningrad?

Well, that was only mentioned by my father in one of his letters. I think he also told me about this and this person, his friend. Timofeev-Resovskii, who was at the institute at the time I was there during the revolution had been a participant with this Green Army which was not the Bolsheviks, not the Red Army and not the White Army which was the Monarchists, I guess, but was something in between. Did you ever hear of it?

But Timofeev-Resovskii was apparently a very strong Russian nationalist. He was very patriotic in that sense, but, I don’t know what his feelings were about the revolution. And as you know, he ended up spending the entire war in Germany, and how a person could do that without collaborating with the Nazis, I don’t know. I think he must have.

MP: It was actually a mystery.

David E. Muller was born in 1924 in Austin, Texas. He is the son of Hermann J. Muller, who received a Nobel Prize in 1946 for his discovery of x-ray induced mutations in Drosophila melanogaster, and Jesse Jacobs Muller Offermann, a mathematician and first wife of H.J. Muller.

In the 1930’s, H.J. Muller left his laboratory at the University of Texas to work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. He then moved to Russia where he joined the Institute of Genetics and later the Institute of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh. During this time, David and his mother traveled to Germany and Russia to visit his father. After H.J. Muller’s return to the United States in 1940, David reunited with his father at the 1941 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Symposium for Quantitative Biology. Afterward, David returned to school at Caltech and H.J. Muller to his appointments at Amherst College (1940-1945) and Indiana University (1945-1967).

Following in his mother’s footsteps, David became a mathematician and began working with computers at the University of Illinois in 1952. There he designed the Muller C-element, which is a commonly used component in computers. He taught at the University of Illinois until 1992 at which time he retired.

In April 2005, David donated his collection of photographs and personal letters written primarily by his parents and Carlos Offermann (one of H.J. Muller’s top graduate students and David’s step-father) to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives. The letters were written between 1900 and 1945, although the bulk of the letters date from the early 1920’s when H.J. Muller took his first trip to Europe and the 1930’s when H.J. Muller was working in Germany, Russia, and the UK. These letters also cover the period of time when H.J. Muller made his Nobel-winning discoveries.

(Anthony Dellureficio, June, 2008)

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