2012.10 Newsletter 2

Library Newsletter/Special Edition, October 2012 Issue 2

American Archives Month

Celebrating American Archives Month at CSHL

The CSHL archives houses the original materials that tell the story of our institution for more than 120 years. This month we will be sharing with you selected documents and photos about the history of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In this second newsletter of the series of four, we will highlight the period 1925-1950. (View the first newsletter covering the period 1890-1924 at                       ) If this brief presentation piques your curiosity, you are always welcome to visit our library or to explore our archives online at http://library.cshl.edu/archives


~Mila Pollock

Biological Laboratory, Reginald Harris 1924-1936

During the period 1925-1950, the Biological Laboratory, now under the management of the Long Island Biological Association, began its transformation to a year-round research institution. Reginald Harris had taken over the directorship from his father-in-law, Charles Davenport, in 1924 and continued as director until his untimely death in 1936. Dr. Harris was a biologist who first studied at Cold Spring Harbor in 1918. Most importantly, under his direction the institution began its transformation into a major research center and the idea of Quantitative Biology took root. He organized the first month-long Symposium on Quantitative Biology, Surface Phenomenan, in 1933, bringing together scientists from different disciplines to collaborate on a single problem. In the preface of the first volume of the Symposia series, Harris wrote, “The primary motive of the conference-symposium is to consider a given biological problem from its chemical, physical, mathematical as well as, its biological aspects.” There have been 75 Symposia held at CSHL since then, as the series has continued yearly with the exception of the war years, 1943-45. (Please see the Symposia and Harris exhibits on view in the CSHL Library second floor exhibit space.)


Brooklyn Daily Eagle article describing the first Symposium, July 26, 1933
Director Reginald Harris pictured left foreground.

Carnegie Institution's Department of Genetics

During the period 1925-1950, the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Genetics and the Biological Laboratory were operating as “friendly neighbors.” Milislav Demerec, who began working at Cold Spring Harbor shortly after his arrival in America in 1919, was eventually appointed director of both institutions simultaneously. His first laboratory was located in the Carnegie Building (then known as the Main Building). Demerec initially researched the genetics of maize and later made significant contributions to the field of genetics with his work on Drosophila. In 1934, he founded the Drosophila Information Service (DIS) with Calvin Bridges, a Carnegie Institution scientist, who spent summers at Cold Spring Harbor at that time. From 1941-1960, Demerec was appointed director of both the Department of Genetics (formerly known as the Station for Experimental Evolution) and the Biological Laboratory.


(Learn more about Calvin Bridges at the exhibit, Calvin Bridges, Unconventional Geneticist, which will be on view in the CSHL Library through November 30, 2012.)


Milislav Demerec with Drosophila staff member, 1934

  Calvin Bridges, 1935

Biophysics Comes to the Biological Laboratory

Under the direction of Reginald Harris, work at the Biological Laboratory was expanded in 1928 to include research in Biophysics. This began the integration of other scientific disciplines into biological research at the Lab and the transition to a year-round research institute. Dr. Hugo Fricke, an accomplished biophysicist, was appointed as the Lab’s first full-time investigator to study the effects of X-rays on living cells in the newly built James Laboratory.


For more information about Hugo Fricke, see his personal collection at: http://library.cshl.edu/personal-collections/hugo-fricke


Hugo Fricke, Biophysicist, 1929


Hugo Fricke's X-Ray tube in James Laboratory

Discovery of adrenal hormone

Another Biolab success story was accomplished by W.W. Swingle, a summer researcher at the Biological Laboratory. In 1930, Dr. Swingle isolated the adrenal cortical hormone, which was then found to relieve Addison’s disease. This discovery drew national attention and was a landmark in the history of hormone therapy.

         W.W. Swingle, 1930


Studies on Mouse Leukemia, 1930s

During his time at Cold Spring Harbor, Carnegie scientist, E. Carlton MacDowell, discovered a strain of mice predisposed to spontaneous leukemia. Subsequent breeding experiments lead to the development of mice with increased susceptibility or resistance to the cancer. This work laid the foundation of modern cancer research. He published a series of papers on his work, which are still available for reading on PubMed.


E. Carlton MacDowell (front right) with his staff: J. Potter, M. Findley, and M. Taylor, 1935


Paper presented by E.C.MacDowell and M. Richter, 1932


Gold Coast Fundraiser, 1932

A party was held in July, 1932, to raise funds for the Long Island Biological Association, the managing organization of the Biological Laboratory. Its members were a group of local "friends" of the Laboratory including renowned financiers and businessmen who resided or had summer homes on Long Island's Gold Coast. The benefit dance was held at Caumsett, the home of Marshall Field III and had a carnival theme. Pictured here are (from left) Mrs. Richard Hoyt, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field, Herbert Scheftel Right, Randolf Burke, Fred Astaire, and Mrs. John R. Fell.


Wartime Research

Bio Lab and Carnegie scientists worked together during World War II. Milislav Demerec and other Carnegie researchers were able to use Fricke's X-ray techniques to mutate Penicillium mold to produce higher yields of penicillin resulting in the increased production of wartime penicillin. Also at that time, Vernon Bryson developed an aerosol penicillin spray for respiratory infections using the "Cold Spring Harbor Aeroliser". An article in the "Victor News" in January, 1945, describes Bryson's achievement and the first uses of the aeroliser at Huntington Memorial Hospital.


      Vernon Bryson, 1947


 Milislav Demerec, 1945

Barbara McClintock, Carnegie Scientist

In 1941, Milislav Demerec recruited Barbara McClintock, a cytogeneticist, for the staff of the CIW’s Department of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor. Her small lab was on the second floor of Animal House, a building later renamed McClintock Laboratory in her honor. Her experimental field of maize was across from the building on what is now the north parking lot of the Carnegie Library. McClintock's studies and observations of mutation in kernels of maize (corn), led to her discovery of transposable genetic elements or “jumping genes.” She presented her paper on the topic at the 1951 Cold Spring Harbor Symposium. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983 for her discovery, which laid the foundation for today's research in genetic engineering.


For more information about Barbara McClintock please see her personal collection at http://library.cshl.edu/personal-collections/barbara-mcclintock


Barbara McClintock, 1944 

                                                               Maize research field (Carnegie building) 1944

"Phage" Courses begin at Cold Spring Harbor

Max Delbrück and Salvador Luria met at the Biological Laboratory in 1941, when Delbruck presented a paper on his research at the Genes and Chromosomes Symposium. Delbruck stayed on that summer and returned nearly every summer through 1980, many of those years spent working with Luria. Director Demerec encouraged Max Delbrück to initiate the first advanced course on Bacteriophage at the Laboratory in 1945. The “Phage” course, which Delbruck organized and taught for 26 successive years at Cold Spring Harbor, introduced countless researchers to new genetic concepts and tools and played a role in the development of what is now called molecular genetics. Delbruck and Luria went on to share the Nobel Prize with Alfred Hershey in 1969 for their work on the “replication mechanism and genetic structure of viruses.”


Max Delbruck and Salvador Luria, 1941    Phage course participants, 1945