Mahlon Hoagland on Jim Watson: Committee Member on Delegation for Basic Biomedical Research
  Mahlon Hoagland     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Jun 2006

In the early, I guess that was in the early 70s I put together a committee to visit the United States Congress to urge them to focus their appropriations on basic biomedical research and we called ourselves the Delegation for Basic Biomedical Research. I had about ten or eleven people most of who were prominent scientists and/or with Nobel Prizes so they were very able people. But all of the one I had going with me to talk to the congress Jim was the most valuable member of my ground and why? Because he was very provocative. He didn’t hesitate to speak very frankly to the members of Congress and you could see some of them sort of backing up and getting their backs up a little bit when Jim talked to them. But what I noticed was that if there was visit to Washington in which he didn’t come with me the congressmen were all very disappointed. They said where is Dr. Watson? We want him here. Jim was enormously effective in working with members of the Congress to persuade them to support biomedical research. I valued him enormously.

Mahlon Hoagland, a molecular biologist who was one of the discoverer of the transfer ribonucleic acid - tRNA. He received a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1948. He served as a doctor during the Second World War. When the War ended he returned to Harvard and became researcher in the Huntington Laboratories at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He worked in the bacteriology and immunology department of Harvard Medical School from 1952 till 1967.

Working together with Paul Zamecnik and Elizabeth Keller he discovered the initial steps of protein synthesis. Two years later in 1958 Hoagland and Zemecnik discovered tRNA. His main input to the laboratory was in his work with amino acid activating enzymes. He noticed that certain enzymes were required to activate amino acids so they could combine with tRNA molecules and eventually be incorporated into new protein molecules. These enzymes were named aminoacyl tRNA synthetases.

In 1957 Hoagland moved to Cambridge where he worked for a year with Crick at Cambridge University. Working together they tried to explain the genetic code. He was Associate Professor of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School and in 1967 was appointed professor in the biochemistry department at the Dartmouth Medical School. After 3 years he left Dartmouth and became Director and President of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts. He retired in 1985.

Mahlon Hoagland was awarded the Franklin Medal for life science. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the US National Academy of Sciences. He died on September 19, 2009.

More Information: Wikipedia