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Tom Maniatis Collection

Identifier: TM

Scope and Contents

The Tom Maniatis Collection consists of a little over 100 boxes of materials relating to the professional life of Dr. Tom Maniatis from the 1970’s to the 2010’s. A large portion of the material concerns his time at Harvard, where he was instrumental to the various Biology departments while also pursuing his own research. The collection also covers his involvement in the Biotechnology industry and his membership in other professional organizations. In addition, there is documentation of which conferences Maniatis attended and spoke at, professional correspondence spanning several decades, and reprints of his publications with accompanying images.


  • Creation: 1973 - 2015

Conditions Governing Access

The Confidential series is restricted and cannot be accessed. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on access at this time, except that access is given only by appointment, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Conditions Governing Use

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Tom Maniatis, born May 8, 1943 in Denver, Colorado, is a molecular biologist and a leader in the field of recombinant DNA. Dr. Maniatis’s research established fundamental understanding of the mechanisms involved in gene expression, RNA transcription, and RNA splicing. This pioneering research by Dr. Maniatis established the gene-cloning methods that enable the identification of genes that cause disease.

Dr. Tom Maniatis received his BA and MS degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He then completed his PhD in molecular biology at Vanderbilt University, where he studied DNA wide angle scattering in Dr. Leonard Lerman’s lab. Maniatis conducted his postdoctoral research at Harvard University and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England and went on to hold faculty positions at Harvard University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the California Institute of Technology, and Columbia University.

Maniatis first worked on gene regulation in bacteriophage Lambda and in his postdoctoral studies shifted the focus of his research to explore his interests in recombinant DNA. Despite the exciting avenues this research could yield, scientists became concerned that without detailed guidelines, gene splicing could result in the production of harmful or unpredictable pathogens that posed significant risks to humans. A controversy developed in the late 1970s over whether, by formulating guidelines for rDNA research, the NIH was infringing on the freedoms of scientific inquiry or establishing acceptable boundaries within which research could be conducted safely. This controversy became particularly heated at Harvard when the Cambridge City Council held public hearings over the practices of rDNA research and established a biohazard committee to monitor the research at the universities. Maniatis met Jim Watson at a reception at Cold Spring Harbor and, in light of the ongoing controversy at Harvard, Jim Watson offered Dr. Maniatis a position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the mid 1970's.

The move to CSHL allowed Dr. Maniatis to work more efficiently to understand the methods of recombinant DNA. During his time at CSHL, in collaboration with Dr. Argiris Efstratiadis and Dr. Fotis Kafatos, Dr. Maniatis developed methods for full-length synthesis and cloning of double stranded DNA copies of mRNA (cDNA). By combining Maniatis’s research on the determination of DNA fragment sizes using gel electrophoresis and Efstratiadis’s research into making full-length copies of mRNA, this collaboration resulted in the new research field of cDNA cloning. The first cDNA paper was published in April 1975, the second in February 1976, and the research detailing their cloning of cDNA was published in June 1976.

Eventually, Maniatis left Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to join the faculty in the Department of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. While at Caltech, the Maniatis lab not only developed new methods to isolate and study individual human genes, but they also generated the first human genomic library. This collection of DNA fragments contained all of the genes in the human genome, and requests for copies of this genomic library poured into Maniatis’s lab from researchers around the world – correspondence reflecting these requests can be explored in this collection. Using the genomic library his lab had generated, Maniatis isolated, sequenced, and cloned the first human genes – the human β-globin cluster. Articles detailing this research were preserved by Manitatis and can be found in this collection.

Dr. Maniatis returned to Harvard in 1980 to teach and continue his research, and remained there until his move to Columbia University in 2010. The Dr. Tom Maniatis Collection at CSHL Archives reflects his papers from this time.

Dr. Tom Maniatis, Dr. Joe Sambrook, and Dr. Ed Fritsch published the three-volume Molecular Cloning Manual in 1982 with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. The manual was developed from a summer course they taught at Cold Spring Harbor in 1980. It established a standard for international dissemination of recombinant DNA methods and has been regarded as the definitive laboratory manual on genetic engineering ever since. Dr. Maniatis has published … articles throughout his distinguished career. He catalogued copies of many of his research publications, which have been preserved in the Dr. Tom Maniatis Collection at CSHL Archives. He has also been the recipient of a number of professional awards and honors, the details of which are found in the material in this collection.

Outside of his research interests, Maniatis has also expressed an interest in architecture (see CSHL Oral History interview). He has described the overlap he sees between science and architecture, “in each case you’re creating something for posterity”. Maniatis’s interest in architecture is apparent in some of his personal documents included in this collection, which involve the architectural and interior designs of several projects in his home and at his Harvard lab.

Dr. Maniatis is currently the Isidore S. Edelman Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University. He is also the Director of the Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative, the Principal Investigator at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute, and the Scientific Director and CEO of the New York Genome Center. His current research interests involve using advanced genetics and molecular and cellular biology as a means to identify possible causes of particular neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.


130 Boxes (119 manuscript boxes, 1 irregular flat box, 1 large box, and 9 slide cases.)

Language of Materials



The Tom Maniatis Collection consists of 108 manuscript boxes, as well as 1 oversized flat storage case and 9 cases of slides. In addition to professional material and correspondence, the collection contains a large number of research notes, slides, transparencies, and negatives.


The material was received directly from Maniatis, in most cases still in the order of his original arrangement. While the material was organized into series, where possible the original order and original folder titles were preserved. While some material has been reorganized or renamed for consistency and discoverability, on a folder level much of the material maintains Maniatis’ original arrangement. Although the majority of the material covers the time that Maniatis was at Harvard, only material directly relating to his tenure there was separated under the Harvard series. These include documentation of activity in his research lab, including others who worked there, general administrative concerns, grant applications, and notes from classes that Maniatis taught.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Tom Maniatis. It was received in 2022 in the form of 55 boxes of material and processed in 2023.

Tom Maniatis Collection
Kate Pigliacelli
Language of description
Script of description

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