Recorded: 01 Jun 2003
So, you know my undergraduate career at Caltech was really quite remarkable because for freshman physics I had as a teacher Feynman. For sophomore genetics I had George Beadle as a teacher. And for chemistry I had occasional lectures by Pauling.
So Linus Pauling was an individual, you know, I saw first—I remember one of the first classes he ever lectured to me in chemistry. Linus Pauling was very famous for using objects to illustrate principles he wanted to get across. And he was building this big complicated molecule with tinker toys and it got to be bigger and bigger. And then all of a sudden the whole thing just exploded in his face. And most people would be nonplussed with that. And Linus just turned to the audience of freshman chemists and said, “Gentlemen, that was an unstable molecule.” And then he walked off the stage.
And, you know, that was Linus. I think he was always—he was a wonderful scientist who—I mean if you look at his career it’s really remarkable. I mean in 1942 he was thinking about theories of antibody diversity and the ideas he had about that dealt with the antigen instructing the protein on how to fold. It turned out to be wrong but it was a very interesting kind of idea. And then in ’56 he did the famous hemoglobin analysis where he demonstrated that sickle cell had a mutation at position 4 that changed the characteristics of the molecule. And then on and on to the alpha helix structure coming very close to the structure of DNA. And then even into his later years he was a remarkably productive creative people. When he died at 92 he was still writing a paper for PNAS that he going to submit on some aspect of chemistry. I mean what was remarkable—I talked to him right until a year before he died, but he was just as sharp as a tack and terrific memory and an intact sense of humor and all of those kinds of things. It makes you really believe in genes as being important for longevity and things like that. But Linus was remarkable in every way. As a showman, as a lecturer, as a scientist and as an individual.
Leroy Hood, a leading scientist in molecular biotechnology and genomics, received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School (1964) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Caltech (1968). In 1992, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at Caltech, where he and his colleagues revolutionized genomics by developing automated DNA sequencing, he relocated to the University of Washington to establish the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology.
Dr. Hood is currently President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle where he leads efforts to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received the Lasker Award for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.
Sharing an interest in the study of antibody diversity, Hood and Watson met in 1967 when Hood attended his first meeting at CSHL. Leroy has been working on the genome since the late 70’s. He went to the first official genome meeting in Santa Cruz in 1985 and has attended all of the subsequent meetings which have been held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.