Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry*

by William C. Summers

Professor of Therapeutic Radiology, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and History of Medicine, and Lecturer in History


During World War II many university physicists undertook new research programs aimed at wartime goals. Notable among these goals were the Manhattan Project to investigate and exploit nuclear energy for military purposes and the project, based at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, to develop radar as a military surveillance tool. Yale nuclear physicist Ernest Pollard, a student of Chadwick and Rutherford, was recruited for the Radiation Lab (known informally as the “Rad Lab”) by Ernest Lawrence. Prior to the war, Pollard had been carrying on a modest program of teaching and research in nuclear physics at Yale in the Department of Physics, then chaired by William Watson. In Pollard’s view, wartime physics research fundamentally changed the style and form of physics in America. Nuclear physics had become big science, requiring expensive equipment and teams of scientists, not an activity for a university professor with a small research group and major teaching obligations. In addition, having spent the war years working on microwave research, Pollard and other members of the Rad Lab had lost out on the excitement and new advances, many of them still classified, in nuclear physics coming out of the Manhattan Project.

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*From Science at Yale, edited by Sidney Altman, 2002, Yale University Press, on the occasion of the Tercentenary of Yale University (1701-2001).

Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Receives Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Yale Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry is elated by the award of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Thomas Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, in recognition of his contributions in elucidating the structure of the ribosome.

A Short, Informal History of the Biological Sciences at Yale University
by Peter B. Moore

Department of Chemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

In May 2012, Yale University’s Graduate school of Arts and sciences held a reunion for all who have received doctorates from Yale in the biological sciences. The proceedings began with two presentations on the history of biological research at Yale: one focused on the Medical school, and the other centered on the rest of the University. This essay is a lightly edited version of my account of the history of the biological sciences outside the Medical school.

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Thomas Steitz of Yale University receives the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Time to hit the cold room! Dieter Söll enlists fraction collectors Peter Moore and Joe Howard to help with his latest experiment!