Washington University School of Medicine Oral History Project Washington University School of Medicine Bernard Becker Medical Library
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Daniel Nathans

Interviewer: Dr. Sondra Schlesinger and Dorothy A. Brockoff; introduction by Darryl Podoll Daniel Nathans
Date: May 4, 1979
Identifier: OH038
Approximate Length: 104 min.
Biographical Information: Microbiologist (1928-1999). Nathans received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Delaware in 1950 and his M.D. from the Washington University School of Medicine in 1954. He served as an intern (1954-1955) and resident (1957-1959) at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, and as a clinical associate (1955-1957) at the National Institutes of Health. Nathans served as a guest investigator (1959-1962) at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, after which he joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as professor and director of the Department of Microbiology. Nathans, Werner Arber and Hamilton O. Smith shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978 for their work on the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to the problems of molecular genetics.
Summary: Nathans participated in two oral histories. In the first interview, Nathans discusses his childhood in Wilmington, Delaware, his undergraduate education at the University of Delaware, and his experiences in medical school at the Washington University School of Medicine. Nathans recalls some of men who influenced his career, including Barry Wood, Carl Cori, Oliver Lowry, Robert Loeb, Fritz Lipmann, and colleagues such as Hamilton O. Smith and Norton Zinder. He recalls his internship and residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, and his experiences as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, Rockefeller University and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

In the first interview, Nathans describes some of his research in microbiology, the biosynthesis of proteins, restriction enzymes, RNA phages, and molecular genetics. In the second interview, Nathans discusses the potential significance of his research on recombinant DNA and the effect of winning the Nobel Prize on his personal life and career.

The audio quality of the interviews is inconsistent. Some portions are inaudible. The first interview lasts approximately 56 minutes; the second interview follows immediately and lasts approximately 48 minutes. There is background noise during the second interview. Interviewed by Dr. Sondra Schlesinger (first interview) and Dorothy A. Brockoff (second interview); introduction by Darryl Podoll on May 4, 1979. The oral history number is OH038. Approximate Length is 104 minutes.

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