Paul Doty on Matt Meselson
  Paul Doty     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Jul 2003

Well, I’ve known Matt very well since he came here in about 1960. And I was instrumental in diverting him a bit because in ’63 I was busy in Washington in arms control matters. And arranged for him to come down for the summer and he got interested in chemical/biological warfare. And this has been a preoccupation of his ever since. Like myself, he would probably be a better scientist if he hadn’t taken that route. But on the other hand he’s contributed a great deal by doing so. He is a person who is obsessed with the feeling that if you every detail about a problem the answer will become apparent. And so whatever it is that he does he does with great intensity. And this is a hallmark. His commitment to know the truth and it shall make you free. So more than anyone I know he concentrates on whatever he does with great intensity. And sometimes it pays off handsomely as it does in much of his research, particularly the strand separation work of the sixties. But even when it gets more complex like in chemical/biological weapon control, his incisiveness has kept things on the track in many situations which might not have been the case without him.

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.