Michael Ashburner on Early Scientific Work
  Michael Ashburner     Biography    
Recorded: 08 May 2008

A man called Henderson, he was a classical, he didn’t work on flies, he was a classical cytologist he worked mostly on locusts. Interestingly bright man, very difficult and he eventually had to retire because he became totally paranoid. I worked with Herchel Mitchell at Caltech, Herchel was really, basically a chemist who had been brought to Caltech by George Beetle when they were working on the genetic control of amino acid control of biosynthesis in Neurospora in the late forties and he worked, and he got interested in Drosophila, I think in the fifties, and went to Zurich to work with Ernest Hartung, who was a great Drosophila developmental biologist. He was really a chemist, kind of a biochemist, he wasn’t a geneticist and I went there to work on a really, really weird problem which never got anywhere, but it was great fun.

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