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Interview with Melvin I. Simon

Melvin, I. (2005) Interview with Melvin I. Simon. [Oral History]

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Interview in two sessions, May 24 and June 5, 2005, with Melvin I. Simon, Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, emeritus, in the Division of Biology. Dr. Simon received his BS from City College of New York in 1959 and his PhD in biochemistry from Brandeis in 1963. After receiving his degree, he was a postdoctoral fellow with Arthur Pardee at Princeton for a year and a half and then joined the faculty of the University of California at San Diego. In 1978, Dr. Simon and his UCSD colleague John Abelson established the Agouron Institute in San Diego, focusing on problems in molecular biology. He (along with Abelson) joined the faculty of Caltech as a full professor in 1982, and he served as chair of the Biology Division from 1995 to 2000. In this interview, he discusses his education in Manhattan’s Yeshiva High School (where science courses were taught by teachers from the Bronx High School of Science), at CCNY, and as a Brandeis graduate student working working with Helen Van Vunakis on bacteriophage. Recalls his unsatisfactory postdoc experience at Princeton and his delight at arriving at UC San Diego, where molecular biology was just getting started. Discusses his work on bacterial organelles; recalls his and Abelson’s vain efforts to get UCSD to back a full-scale initiative in molecular biology and their subsequent founding of their own institute. Recalls his early years at Caltech and the domination of the Biology Division by Leroy E. Hood, who was developing molecular sequencing machines. Recalls the establishment of the Beckman Institute. Discusses his growing interest in genomics and his involvement with the Human Genome Project. Discusses the departure of division chairman Lee Hood, the subsequent chairmanship of Abelson, and his own stint as chairman. Recalls the recruiting and arrival of David Baltimore as Caltech’s president (1997-2007) and assesses his presidency.

Item Type:Oral History
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Simon_M
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Simon, Melvin I. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, May 24 and June 5, 2005. 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:Subjects > Biology
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ID Code:224
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:13 May 2013 16:12
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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