Recorded: 22 Jul 2003
Of course I’m long retired now from the lab, but in the sixties there was a great lure of simplicity. You could plan an experiment in which the result should be a straight line. You’re connecting the data and you would measure the GC content of DNAs against their stabilities and it would be a nice straight line. But those days are all gone. Life is a much more complicated now. And even more in this new age with the information flowing out like a fire hydrant. I think the transition that biology has to go through in the next decade is much the same magnitude as in 1960. It is a different world than the other. We won’t recognize it ten years from now.
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.