Polioforever's Blog

Hermann J. Muller

 Hermann J. Muller (1890-1967)



Hermann J. Muller “formulated..the chief principles of spontaneous gene mutation as now recognized, including those of most mutations being detrimental and recessive, as being point effects of ultramicroscopic physico-chemical accidents..” according to his Nobel Prize biography linked above. “In late 1926 he obtained critical evidence of the abundant production of gene mutations and chromosome changes by X-rays (published 1927). This opened the door to numerous researches…”. 
Muller was born and raised in New York City earning his way with scholarship to Columbia where he began studying biology and genetics. In 1912 his experimental work with Drosophila (fruit flies) led to an understanding of genetic inheritance and the theory of “balanced lethals”. Julian Huxley ‘called’ Muller to come and teach at the Rice Institute in Houston from 1915 to 1918, thereafter he returned to Columbia and developed methods of quantitative mutation study. In 1920, Muller went to the University of Texas at Austin where he produced his Nobel quality work. In 1932, Hermann Muller was invited to study and teach in the USSR which he did for five years until 1937, transferring then to the University of Edinburgh (1937-40) in response to the Lysenko inspired ‘anti-genetics’ climate in the Soviets. From 1940 to 1945, Muller taught at Amherst College where he performed his large-scale experiment “showing the relationship of aging to spontaneous mutations”. In 1945 he accepted a professorship at Indiana University’s Zoology department and continued his work on ‘radiation-induced’ mutation, noted that “Natural aging..[gives] evidence of not being caused in this way”.
“In the 1930’s, twenty years before Watson and Crick described the DNA’s double helix, Hermann Muller was irradiating fruit flies at Woods Hole [marine lab] to produce mutants with deletions and inversions involving the ends of chromosomes. High energy rays produce DNA breaks… Muller coined the term telomere for this terminal gene [in 1938]… [He] used experiment and observation to correctly deduce the function of telomeres long before we even knew the structure of DNA” http://www.rechargebiomedical.com/blog/uncategorized/1938-muller-names-the-telomere/
Description of telomeres http://www.telomere.net/ , identified as keys to cellular aging. Long telomeres are understood to confer longevity and found in abundance in embryonic stem cells procured by cloning. Curiously, Muller’s career path appears to have broken ground for ongoing work in radiation biology that involves tissue engineering and cloning.  Muller is credited with denouncing eugenics and predicting significant increases in human diseases due to radiation.

“The ideas Muller laid out for the development of a practical eugenics program differed from those of the American Eugenics Society, particularly his emphasis on ‘positive eugenics’ and the importance of a classless society as a precursor to a eugenics program. ‘Positive eugenics’ was Muller’s theory which promoted the perpetuation of good genes rather than the removal of bad genes from society (‘negative eugenics’).” [Galtonian eugenics was of this ‘positive’ type] Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory archives http://cshlarchives.blogspot.com/2007/12/e.html

Julian Huxley(1887-1975); brother of Aldous Huxley, grandsons of Thomas Henry Huxley; Julian Huxley “caused considerable controversy by advocating the deliberate physical and mental improvement of the human race through eugenics… he campaigned for the birth control movement…in the 1930s he gathered supporting arguments for the theory of natural selection from the new mathematical genetics of J. B. S. Haldane, R. A. Fisher, and Sewall Wright.” The Oxford-trained zoologist was hired by the new (in 1912) Rice Institute of Houston Texas as chief of its biology department (1912-1916). He returned to England to join army Intelligence, WWI. 
   Huxley combined his writing talent with his broad interests in biology in the collaboration with H. G. Wells and his son G. P. Wells to produce The Science of Life (1931), an encyclopedic textbook. Other Huxley books during [the 1930s] included Essays of a Biologist, Religion without Revelation, Essays in Popular Science, The Stream of Life, What Darwin Really Said, Ants, and Bird-Watching and Bird-Behaviour…Huxley also wrote Evolution: The Modern Synthesis(1942)…the book was his proudest achievement and his most influential…In 1946 he became the first director-general of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO)…he continued until his death in 1975 to write popular works about science, covering such topics as Soviet genetics and politics, current evolutionary theory, cancer, and humanism.” http://www.answers.com/topic/julian-huxley
Rice Institute: “Houston 101: Rice University’s Twisted, Tangled Birth”– “William Marsh Rice [1816-1900]..hit it big in the cotton business. By 1850..his siblings had moved to town and joined the family firm…  In 1867, the widowed Rice, by then one of the richest men in Texas, married an unintentional femme fatale. The widow Elizabeth Baldwin Brown..[who] passed for a blueblood… Some believe she had an ulterior motive. Capt. James A. Baker, Mr. Rice’s lawyer (and the grandfather of Bush family consigliere James A. Baker III) was to comment dryly, ‘She was very, very liberal’…
[Elizabeth died, leaving a ‘new’ will, dividing Rice’s fortune to her liking, and then Rice was poisoned in a scheme to steal his estate]…”But Baker..saved Rice’s dream: the future of Rice Institute..when he managed to steer $4.5 million of Rice’s estate to the foundation of the school.” http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2009/08/houston_101_rice_universitys_t.php 
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: “In 1927, a National Academy of Sciences committee concluded that it was time to “consider the share of the United States of America in a worldwide program of oceanographic research.” The committee’s recommendation for establishing a permanent independent research laboratory on the East Coast to “prosecute oceanography in all its branches” led to the founding in 1930 of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. A $3 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation supported the summer work of a dozen scientists, construction of a laboratory building and commissioning of a research vessel..”
   “In February 2008, Dr. Susan K. Avery became the new president and director of the institution. Avery, an atmospheric physicist, is the ninth director in WHOI’s 77-year history ….In addition to oceanographic research, it conducts important work in meteorology, biology, geology, and geophysics.” http://www.answers.com/topic/woods-hole-oceanographic-institution

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