The Caltech Institute Archives

Interview with Sterling H. Emerson

Emerson, Sterling (2011) Interview with Sterling H. Emerson. [Oral History]

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An interview in three sessions, in March and April 1979, with Sterling Howard Emerson, professor of genetics, emeritus, in the Division of Biology. Dr. Emerson came to Caltech in 1928 as an assistant professor in the division, newly established under Thomas Hunt Morgan. He discusses his youth in Lincoln, Nebraska, and attendance at Cornell (BS, 1922), where his father, horticulturalist Rollins A. Emerson, taught plant genetics. Graduate work at the University of Michigan (PhD 1928). He recalls the early days of genetics after the rediscovery of Mendelism: meeting Columbia geneticists Morgan, A. H. Sturtevant, Calvin Bridges; H. J. Muller at Cold Spring Harbor (summer 1921); recruitment of Caltech’s biologists under Morgan; the Biology Council (1942-1946) running the division after Morgan’s retirement; the advent of George Beadle; his work with the AEC’s Division of Biology and Medicine (1955-1957); Morgan’s relationship with Caltech head R. A. Millikan; interaction with Linus Pauling. Memories of Sturtevant, Frits Went, Ernest Anderson, Robert Emerson, Henry Borsook, Albert Tyler, James Bonner, Norman Horowitz, C. A. G. Wiersma, A. J. Haagen-Smit, Roger Sperry. Discussion of his own work, chiefly on genetic recombination and adaptive changes in Oenothera and Neurospora.

Item Type:Oral History
Additional Information:Editor's note: Shortly after this interview, Professor Emerson’s health declined and he was unable to review the transcript. Because of his condition and in accordance with Mrs. Emerson’s wishes, the interview was set aside and kept closed. Professor Emerson passed away May 2, 1988. In 1998, the Archives received permission from his son, Jonathan Emerson, to release the interview, and a bound copy was made available in the Archives, with the text edited lightly and proper names and technical terms checked to the extent possible after a lapse of almost twenty years. Readers should understand that there are still some slight gaps in the transcript and that a few names and terms remain unverified. Sterling Emerson also participated in a joint interview with James Bonner, Norman Horowitz, and Donald Poulson, conducted in November 1978 by Judith Goodstein, Harriett Lyle, and Mary Terrall.
Keywords:Biology, genetics
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Emerson_S
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Official Citation:Emerson, Sterling. Interview by Harriett Lyle. Pasadena, California, March 31, April 4 and 6, 1979. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Biology
ID Code:196
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:07 Dec 2011 17:37
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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