CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Interview in 1978 with Max Delbr\u00fcck, professor of biology emeritus, begins with
his recollections of growing up in an academic family in Berlin. Trained at
G\u00f6ttingen in the late 1920s as a theoretical physicist, he later switched to biology,
inspired by Niels Bohr to investigate the applications of complementarity to
biological phenomena. After postgraduate work at Bristol and Copenhagen, he
returned to Berlin in 1932 to work for Lise Meitner and formed a \u201cclub\u201d of
theoretical physicists, biologists, and biochemists, who met for discussions at his
mother\u2019s house. Recollections of the advent of the Nazis in 1933. In 1937
Delbr\u00fcck left Berlin for Caltech on a Rockefeller Fellowship; he defends the
decision of other German scientists, notably Heisenberg, to remain in Germany.
At Caltech he began working inDrosophila genetics but quickly shifted to phage
work with Emory Ellis. Moved to Vanderbilt University in 1940, where he
remained for seven years; comments on Oswald Avery\u2019s identification of DNA as
the \u201ctransforming principle.\u201d Recalls his association with Salvador Luria and
summer phage group at Cold Spring Harbor in the 1940s; joint letter with Linus
Pauling toScience in 1940 on intermolecular forces in biological processes; his
reaction to 1945 publication of Erwin Schr\u00f6dinger\u2019s What is Life? Returned to
Caltech in 1947 as professor of biology; comments on activities of Biology
Division under chairmen George W. Beadle and Ray Owen, and the
psychobiology of Roger Sperry. Recalls 1953 Watson-Crick discovery of the
structure of DNA; comments on Watson as director of Cold Spring Harbor and on
Copyright has been assigned to the California Institute of Technology \u00a9 1979.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from the transcript must be
submitted in writing to the University Archivist.
Delbr\u00fcck, Max. Interview by Carolyn Harding. Pasadena, California, July 14-
September 11, 1978. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology
Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Pasadena, CA 91125
Phone: (626)395-2704 Fax: (626)793-8756
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