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Matthew Meselson, 2002-07-17

 Item — Multiple Containers
Oral History | Matthew Meselson
Oral History | Matthew Meselson

Scope and Contents

Matthew Meselson, geneticist and molecular biologist, is interviewed by Mila Pollock at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 17, 2002.

Matt Meselson talks about his scientific pursuits as a youth, his undergraduate years at the University of Chicago and Caltech, and his work with Linus Pauling as a graduate student in chemistry at Caltech in the early 1950s, including his work on density gradient centrifugation. He recounts how his auspicious relationship with Jim Watson began at Caltech, and how it led him to Woods Hole in 1954 and Frank Stahl with whom he collaborated on their eventually famous DNA replication experiment. Meselson reminisces about Jim Watson at Harvard in the 1960s, the exciting changes he brought about in biology at Harvard, and Watson as a writer. He speaks about the unique early phage meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, John Cairns as a friend and as director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. And finally, Meselson shares his thoughts on scientific education and research as it exists today.

Matt Meselson discusses the following in his interview: Scene 1. Becoming a scientist -- Scene 2. Changes in science over time -- Scene 3. Scientific influences -- Scene 4. Life outside of science -- Scene 5. Graduate work with Linus Pauling: applying chemistry to biological problems -- Scene 6. Graduate work with Linus Pauling: density gradient centrifugation -- Scene 7. Meeting Jim Watson and Frank Stahl -- Scene 8. Jim Watson, personality -- Scene 9. Jim Watson, professor and administrator -- Scene 10. Jim Watson, writer: "The double helix" -- Scene 11. The battle of biology at Harvard -- Scene 12. Jim Watson at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Harvard -- Scene 13. Science and writing -- Scene 14. Jim Watson, writer: is his style unique? -- Scene 15. Jim Watson's family: Bonnie Jean and Betty -- Scene 16. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory -- Scene 17. John Cairns, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Director -- Scene 18. Teaching -- Scene 19. Learning science: then and now -- Scene 20. Graduate school philosophies.


  • Creation: 2002-07-17


Conditions Governing Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online: Select tapes have been digitized thanks to support from CLIR Recordings at Risk Grant awarded in 2021, these tapes are available for research online via our Oral History Website and in person at CSHL Archives. Please contact CSHL Archives with any questions regarding availability.

Biographical / Historical

Matthew Meselson earned his Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago in 1951 and from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 under the tutelage of Linus Pauling. In 1958 with Frank Stahl, Meselson experimentally showed the semi-conservative mechanism of DNA replication as predicted by Watson and Crick. He is currently the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences in Harvard University's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. His laboratory studies sexual reproduction and genetic recombination, and how and why they are maintained in evolution. Since 1963 Meselson has been interested in chemical and biological defense and arms control, has served as a consultant on this subject to various government agencies and is a member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Meselson has received the Award in Molecular Biology from the National Academy of Sciences, the Public Service Award of the Federation of American Scientists, the Presidential Award of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and the 1995 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal of the Genetics Society of America. Dr. Meselson is presently a member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.


2 Cassettes (Camcorder footage) : Hi-8 - CSHL1282 (1 of 2), CSHL1283 (2 of 2)

2 VHS (Copies) : #1 MESELSON_MATTHEW_ND_02 [0:53:22] unedited (background static sounding noise; #2 MESELSON_MATTHEW_03 [0:42:57] unedited (cut to blue screen around 15 minute)

1 Optical Disks (Talking science with Matthew Meselson.) : DVD ; 42 min.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


Interview recorded on Hi-8, then transferred to VHS and DVD. VHS digitized in 2021 by CLIR RAR Grant.

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA