Michael Ashburner on Alfred Tissieres and Herschel Mitchell
  Michael Ashburner     Biography    
Recorded: 03 Jul 2003

He [Alfred Tissieres] spent a lot of time in Cambridge. I think [he] was the first fellow at King’s College at one time. Alfred was a great friend of Herschel Mitchell. Now Herschel is not well known, but he was a great scientist and a great guy. He died, I think, two or three years ago. Herschel was the guy I went to Caltech to do my postdoc with. Herschel had been trained as a chemist and was actually hired by [George] Beadle, the great geneticist who later got the Nobel Prize, as a chemist in the early days of work on pathways in Neurospora. Then in the early ‘50s—Herschel at the time was married to Mary Mitchell who was a very, very good geneticist and did really the first convincing experiment which showed gene conversion in fungi. They later separated. Herschel went to Zurich on a sabbatical to work with Hadorn who was the great man in Zurich in the ‘50s and [he] switched to Drosophila. I’m not quite sure how, but Herschel and Alfred were very close friends, I don’t know how they got together. While in Zurich, Herschel married Hadorn’s technician Anna Marie. So in 1974—I have to go back a bit.

Michael Ashburner, a leader in Drosophila Genetics and bioinformatics, received his B.A. (1964), M.A. (1968), Ph.D. (1968) and Sc.D. (1978) from the University of Cambridge, where he is currently professor of Biology in the Department of Genetics and a Professional Fellow of Churchill College.

He has been the joint head of European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and was co-founder of Flybase, the primary online database for Drosophila genetics and molecular biology, the Gene Ontology Consortium, an effort to coordinate biological databases through a defined taxonomy of gene function, and the Crete Meetings, a bi-annual event focusing on the developmental and molecular biology of Drosophila melanogaster.

Among many honors, he is the recipient of the G.J. Mendel Medal (Czech Republic 1998) and the George W. Beadle Medal (Genetics Society of America 1999).

Michael Ashburner