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Norton Zinder Collection

Identifier: NDZ

Scope and Content

***The Zinder Collection is currently in the process of being reorganized and will not be available for research. We apologize for the inconvenience.

The Norton Zinder Collection at CSHL Library and Archives is composed of material accrued by Zinder as a student (Columbia University, University of Wisconsin), Professor (Rockefeller University), and as a pioneering researcher in the field of molecular biology. The collection includes course notebooks, lecture notes and teaching files, scientific papers, correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, clippings, and material related to his fifty year career at Rockefeller University. Specifically, the Biographical series includes 5 boxes of his notes and correspondence while and undergraduate and graduate student; as well as his thesis draft, family speeches, and 1962- 1994 Rockefeller University photos. The Rockefeller University series includes 89 boxes of lab notebooks and slides, administrative correspondence, and an additional 42 boxes of reprints. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory series is composed of 7 boxes of Board of Director minutes, notes, correspondence, speeches, lecture notes, blueprints and memorabilia. The Governmental Activities series of 52 boxes includes National Academy of Science (NAS) activities, the Human Genome Project; testimony before various governmental entities, and unclassified armed forces documents from National Research Council Activities.


  • Creation: 1938-2012


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 8:00a.m. to 4:45p.m. Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

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.


Norton Zinder, a New Yorker, received his A.B. degree from Columbia University in 1947 and went on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received a Ph. D. in 1952. As a graduate student, he discovered bacterial transduction , showing that Bacteriophage can carry genetic material from a donor to recipient bacteria. He returned to New York in 1952 to Rockefeller University (then known as The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research) as an Assistant. At Rockefeller he was later appointed an Associate in 1956, Associate Professor in 1958 and Professor in 1964, and later appointed Dean of Graduate and Post Graduate studies. In 1977 he was designated the John D. Rockefeller Professor of Molecular Genetics. During these Rockefeller years, he made significant findings regarding small RNA and DNA infected with bacteriophage and continued his molecular biology research until his retirement from Rockefeller University in 1989.

Zinder served in the national policy arenas as a member of the Board of Army Science and Technology and as the chair of the NIH committee to review the National Cancer Plan as well as the advisory committee of the Human Genome Project. Elected to the National Academy of Science in 1969, he served on committees addressing Recombinant DNA, overseeing the disposal of US chemical weapon stockpiles and chemical warfare defense. He has been a member of the Visiting Committees at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Duke Universities. Zinder also served on the Board of Trustees of Cold Spring Harbor Lab from 1967 to 1986 (including as Secretary to the Board). Dr. Zinder died in New York on February 3, 2012 at the age of 83.


195 boxes (82 linear feet)


The Norton Zinder Collection documents the academic life and career of Norton Zinder a geneticist and microbiologist, Professor Emeritus at the Rockefeller University, and trustee of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Zinder was an active participant in five dynamic decades of biological science, emerging from the confines of the laboratory to national and international arenas addressing political and moral issues such as recombinant DNA research guidelines, the demilitarization of chemical weapons, abortion, scientific misconduct, and the Human Genome Project. The collection includes photographs, correspondence, manuscripts, laboratory notebooks, administrative records, memorabilia, reprints and various other records.

Arrangement Note

The material has been divided in 4 series.

  1. Biographical, 1944-2005 (boxes 1-14)
  2. Rockefeller University, 1948-2005 (boxes 15-34)
  3. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1961-2003 (boxes 35-40)
  4. Governmental Activites, 1962-2003 (boxes 41-48)

Material from the accession was received from Zinder's Rockefeller Univsersity office in an unorganized state with little indication as to arrangement. Like material was grouped into series by the processing archivist to assit researchers. The collection was processed using the "More Products, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing" (American Archivist, Vol 68 (2005) p208-263 Material generally arrived in unlaabeled boxes, folders or binders, or was simply loose in athe shipping box. Zinder's folder titles were retained when available.

When available, Zinder's titles were retained and the series titles reflect as such. However, the majority of folder titles used in the finding aid were created by the processing archivist to best describe the material therein.


The collection was donated by Norton Zinder. It was received in June 2007 and processed at CSHL Library and Archives in August-January 2012 (Accession # 2012-014).


This collection was processed with funding provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Basic Processing Grant.

Norton Zinder Collection
In Progress
Finding Aid Prepared by E.Pessala.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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