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"Berlin Memorial Plaque" For American Geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller

The American geneticist and Nobel Prize laureate Hermann Joseph Muller (1890 - 1967) was commemorated today with a "Berlin Memorial Plaque" in a dedication ceremony at Campus Berlin-Buch. The plaque was unveiled by his daughter, Professor Emerita Helen Juliette Muller, University of New Mexico (USA), Professor Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and Professor Walter Birchmeier, scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. The plaque was installed at the former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for Brain Research, now named the Oskar und Cécile Vogt Building. From November 1932 until September 1933 Hermann Joseph Muller worked there as visiting scientist with the Russian geneticist Nikolai Timoféeff-Ressovsky. The importance of their research collaboration and - building on that - with the young Max Delbrück for the development of genetics is the subject of a book published in German and English for this occasion by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC): "Genetiker in Berlin-Buch/Geneticists in Berlin-Buch".

The memorial plaque bears the following inscription: "In this building from November 1932 until September 1933, the biologist and geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller (December 21, 1890 - April 5, 1967) explored fundamental questions of genetics while he was visiting scientist at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research. In 1946 he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine." Science historian Professor Hans-Jörg Rheinberger held the dedication ceremony address, lauding Hermann Joseph Muller as "one of the great pioneers of genetics in the twentieth century". In her remarks at the ceremony, Professor Emerita Helen Juliette Muller recalled memories of her father. Muller's son, the mathematician David Eugene Muller, who as a child was with his parents at that time in Berlin, did not live to experience the unveiling of the memorial plaque for his father. He died of a grave illness a few weeks before the dedication ceremony.

Muller was one of the first to recognize genes as the foundation of life. He was the first scientist to produce mutations in genes in experiments. Moreover, his studies on x-ray-induced genetic alterations advanced quantitative thinking in biology. He was also indefatigable in warning against the perils of ionizing radiation, particularly in the form of nuclear weapons.

Hermann Joseph Muller was born on December 21, 1890 in New York City and studied biology there at Columbia University from 1907 to 1910. After completing his master's degree in 1911, he held a teaching fellowship at Cornell Medical College in Ithaca, New York. In 1915 he received his PhD from Columbia University under the supervision of the geneticist and later Nobel Prize laureate Thomas H. Morgan. Together with Morgan and two other scientists, Muller published The Mechanisms of Mendelian Heredity, a book which was to have great influence on research.

In the following years Muller was a member of the faculty at various universities and in 1925 received a professorship at the University of Texas in Austin. In 1922, during a lecture tour in the USSR, he gave a specially cultured collection of Drosophila stocks to the Russian scientist Nikolai K. Koltsov (Moscow), thus laying the cornerstone for the development of Drosophila genetics in the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, Nikolai Timoféeff-Ressovsky began work with these stocks. A few years later, on Koltsov's recommendation, he was invited by Oskar Vogt in 1925 to come to work in Berlin, and he continued this research in Berlin until the end of the war in 1945.

Nobel Prize for induction of mutations by means of x-rays

In 1926-1927 Muller discovered that x-rays can induce genetic mutations, and he published his findings in the American journal Science. In 1946, almost 20 years later, he received the Nobel Prize for this research, but his findings had already attracted much attention shortly after publication. Muller held the plenary lecture at the 5th International Congress of Genetics in Berlin in 1927. The same year Muller also became acquainted with Nikolai Timoféeff-Ressovsky in Berlin. In order to collaborate with him, Muller came to Berlin again as Guggenheim Fellow in 1932-1933 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin-Buch. As Professor Rheinberger elaborated in his dedicatory address, "His [Muller's] last action on his way to Europe was to deliver a paper at the Third International Congress of Eugenics in New York, also in August 1932, with the telling title 'The dominance of economics over eugenics'. It was essentially a break from his former support of eugenics as it was propagated in the United States and elsewhere in the world at that time." During this stay Muller also went to Copenhagen and there became acquainted with Niels Bohr (1885-1962) as well as with the young Max Delbrück. In the following years the four scientists met several times (1936 - 1938) at conferences in Denmark and Belgium.

Due to political developments in Germany, Muller broke off his stay in Berlin prematurely. In March 1933 SA units stormed the Institute and arrested several people - including Muller, who was only released after Gustav Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach intervened. Muller left Germany on September 16, 1933 and went to the Soviet Union, although friends had warned him against doing so. He remained in Leningrad and Moscow until 1937. In 1933 he was named corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, but resigned in 1948 out of protest to Lysenko, Stalin's chief biologist. In 1937 he first went to Scotland, returning from there in 1940 to the U.S. Until 1945 he was a faculty member at Amherst College in Massachusetts, after that professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. Muller died at the age of 76 on April 5, 1967 in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

"Genetiker in Berlin-Buch/Geneticists in Berlin-Buch"

The significance of Hermann Joseph Muller, Nikolai Timoféeff-Ressovsky and Max Delbrück for the development of genetics and molecular biology is the subject of the book published by the MDC "Genetiker in Berlin-Buch/Geneticists in Berlin-Buch". The life histories of the three scientists clearly reflect the upheavals of the 20th century. The authors are Professor Volker Wunderlich (MDC), who describes Muller as "perhaps the most influential geneticist in the first five decades of the past century" and "an intellectual forerunner of molecular biology". Professor Fritz Melchers of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology and Professor Jens Reich (MDC) have written tributes to the legacy of Max Delbrück (1906 - 1981). Their contributions are based on lectures they held in Berlin in 2006 on the occasion of the centenary celebration of Max Delbrück, the name patron of the MDC. The essay by Professor Manfred Rajewsky (University of Essen) illuminates the life and work of Timoféeff-Ressovsky (1900 - 1981).

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch

"Memorialul de la Berlin placa" Pentru americani genetician Hermann Joseph Muller - "Berlin Memorial Plaque" For American Geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller - articole medicale engleza - startsanatate