Recorded: 04 Jun 2001
First I looked around and Beadle was head of the biology division. Everybody thought that Beadle was something absolutely fantastic. You might not understand this very well, but at that time. (Laugh.)
I was in biology and I started working with somebody called Herschel Mitchell who was a chemist, an organic chemist but he had a feeling for biology. Strangely enough, Mitchell was interested in respiratory enzymes in Neurospora, where he was working, and so I thought the simplest thing to do for me was to do some experiments in that field. We ended up doing some interesting work in this mold and that's what I did for the year then I went back to Cambridge.
Then this chap Vaguely said to me, “Oh you have to go talk to Max!” He was the great Max Delbrück. I was very obedient—and usually I wasn’t obedient, and on this occasion I was obedient—and I went to talk to Max. Max told me, “You know, I can't see any occasion where biochemistry was useful for biology. No it's just no good.” Max was talking in this way because he was talking to physicists and the physicists and biochemists were not speaking the same language. So Max told me it was just ridiculous. I was asked to come on those camping trips with the Delbrück a few times. Of course we were never talking about science because I had realized that I couldn't get along with him. Max was quite impossible according to some people, I always got along very nicely with him and with his wife and family. So this was how I spent my first year.
Alfred Tissières was a biologist, biochemist and geneticist. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge for his work at the Molteno Institute and subsequently did postdoctoral work on respiratory enzymes at Caltech under Max Delbruck.
Soon after returning to Cambridge, Watson suggested he come to Harvard to work on microsomal particles in E. coli.
At Harvard, Tissières and Jim discovered that ribosomes were made of two unequal pieces, each containing protein and RNA. Tissieres began a professorship at the University of Geneva where his laboratory has become prominent in the field of ribosome research.
Alfred first attended a symposium at Cold Spring Harbor in 1961 and when Jim Watson became director, Tissières would regularly visit with his family during the summer.