A Brief History, continued

In 1942, Demerec appointed Barbara McClintock to the Department of Genetics. At that time, she was already
McClintock Laboratory. Here, Barbara McClintock discovered transposable elements, and Alfred Hershey performed the "Waring-blender" experiment.  
acknowledged as the world leader in cytogenetics. In 1944, she became the third woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences (at age 42!). In the 1940s, McClintock began to study puzzling unstable mutations in maize, an effort that ultimately led her to describe the Ac-Ds system of transposable elements. McClintock’s findings were unconventional and misunderstood until other researchers found similar transposable elements in bacteria in the early 1970s. In 1983, McClintock received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for her studies of transposable elements.

The 1950ssaw the beginning of the Laboratory’s internationally recognized summer Undergraduate Research Program. David Baltimore, who shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, participated in the first class and spent the summer of 1959 performing research at the Laboratory.

In 1962, the Department of Genetics, no longer supported by the Carnegie Institute of Washington, merged with the Biological Laboratory: the modern Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was born. The first years of the new institution were financially difficult, and it was only by dint of heroic efforts by then-director John Cairns that the Laboratory’s financial situation was stabilized. In 1968, Cairns resigned to return to research, and James Watson, then a professor at Harvard University, agreed to become director while initially retaining his Harvard post. Watson was eager to change the focus of the Laboratory to the study of cancer, and one of his early coups was the 1969 hiring of a young virologist, Joseph Sambrook, to begin a tumor virus group that continues to the present day. It was not until 1973, however, that real financial stability came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In that year, the Robertson Research Fund was established through Charles Sammis Robertson’s generous gift of nearly $8 million. Several years later, Robertson donated his nearby Banbury Estate to the Laboratory.

Since the 1970s,the Laboratory’s studies on cancer have flourished, and there has been a large expansion and broadening of its research. The study of plants at the Laboratory was reinvigorated in the 1980s with the construction of the Page Laboratory, a building dedicated to plant biology. In 1990, the Laboratory began a significant research program in neuroscience that now includes behavior, electrophysiology, nervous system development and plasticity, and computational neuroscience. The research efforts of this modern era of biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have led to many exciting discoveries, as listed in "Research Highlights: 1970–1995."

Under Watson's directorship, in addition to the expansion of research at the Laboratory, educational programs at the Laboratory flourished. The Laboratory created the Banbury Conference Center in 1977 and the DNA Learning Center in 1988, the first science center devoted entirely to educating the public about genetics.

In 1994,Bruce Stillman became director of the Laboratory and Watson its president. With their leadership today, the Laboratory has vigorous, interactive research programs in genetics, cellular and molecular biology, structural biology, developmental biology, virology, protein chemistry, cell cycle regulation, plant genetics, electrophysiology, behavior, imaging, bioinformatics, and genomics. Recent accomplishments in these fields by today’s Laboratory scientists can be found in the profiles of the research faculty.

In 1998, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s long tradition of education in the biological sciences was greatly enriched by its accreditation as a Ph.D. degree-granting institution by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, on behalf of the State Education Department, and the establishment of the Watson School of Biological Sciences.

It is an exciting time to be at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which is now enhanced by doctoral students of its new graduate school.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory - Watson School of Biological Sciences