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Hermann Joseph Muller

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Hermann Joseph Muller

Hermann Joseph Muller
Born (1890-12-21)December 21, 1890
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died April 5, 1967(1967-04-05) (aged 76)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Nationality United States
Fields Genetics, molecular biology
Doctoral advisor Thomas Hunt Morgan
Doctoral students H. Bentley Glass
Known for The genetic effects of radiation
Notable awards

1927 Newcomb Cleveland Prize
1946 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Linnean Society of London's Darwin–Wallace Medal (1958).
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]


1963 Humanist of the Year (American Humanist Association)
Spouse Jessie Marie Jacobs (m. 1923; 1 child)
Dorothea Kantorowicz (m. 1939) (1909–1986)

Hermann Joseph Muller (or H. J. Muller) (December 21, 1890 – April 5, 1967) was an American geneticist, educator, and Nobel laureate best known for his work on the physiological and genetic effects of radiation (X-ray mutagenesis) as well as his outspoken political beliefs.[2] Muller frequently warned of the long-term dangers of radioactive fallout from nuclear war and nuclear testing, helping to raise public awareness in this area.[3]

Contents

  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Career 1.2
      • Discovery of X-ray mutagenesis 1.2.1
      • Work in Europe 1.2.2
      • Later career 1.2.3
    • Personal life 1.3
  • Former graduate students 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Biography

Early life

Muller was born in New York City, the son of Frances (Lyons) and Hermann Joseph Muller, Sr., an artisan who worked with metals. He excelled in the public schools. His mother's family was Jewish, and had come from Britain, while his father's was Catholic and German.[4] As an adolescent, he attended a Unitarian church and considered himself a pantheist; in high school he became an atheist. At 16 he entered Columbia College. From his first semester he was interested in biology; he became an early convert of the Mendelian-chromosome theory of heredity — and the concept of genetic mutations and natural selection as the basis for evolution. He formed a Biology Club and also became a proponent of eugenics; the connections between biology and society would be his perennial concern. Muller earned a B.A. degree in 1910.[5]

Muller remained at Columbia (the pre-eminent American zoology program at the time, thanks to

  • Nobel Biography
  • Hermann Joseph Muller — Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences
  • The Muller manuscripts, 1910–1967 in archives of the Indiana University
  • On the origins of the linear no-threshold (LNT) dogma by means of untruths, artful dodges and blind faith, Edward J. Calabrese, Environmental Research 142 (2015) 432–442.

External links

  1. ^  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ a b c John Bellamy Foster (2009). The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet, Monthly Review Press, New York, pp. 71-72.
  4. ^ http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1946/muller-bio.html?print=1
  5. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 17-37
  6. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 37-69
  7. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 70-90; for more on the culture and norms of the fly lab, see Kohler, Robert E. (1994). Lords of the fly: Drosophila genetics and the experimental life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  .
  8. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 91-108
  9. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 109-119
  10. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 120-140
  11. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 141-164
  12. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 165-183
  13. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 184-203
  14. ^ H. J. Muller, Out of the Night: A Biologist's View of the Future (New York: Vangard, 1935), p. v.
  15. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 204-234; quotation from p 233, correspondence from Muller to Julian Huxley, March 9, 1937
  16. ^ "The 'Geneticists Manifesto'," originally published in Journal of Heredity, 1939, 30:371-73; reprinted in H. J. Muller, Studies in Genetics: The Selected Papers of H. J. Muller (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962), pp. 545-548.
  17. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 235-273
  18. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 274-288
  19. ^ Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. City of Bloomington Interim Report. Bloomington: City of Bloomington, 2004-04, 90.
  20. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 304-318
  21. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 336-379.
  22. ^ http://www.nasonline.org/programs/awards/kimber-genetics-award.html
  23. ^ Muller, H. J. (1958). "Evolution by mutation". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 64 (4): 137–160.  
  24. ^ Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society, pp 10-11

References

See also

  • Herman Joseph Muller, Modern Concept of Nature (SUNY Press, 1973). ISBN 0-87395-096-8.
  • Herman Joseph Muller, Man's Future Birthright (SUNY Press, 1973). ISBN 0-87395-097-6.
  • H. J. Muller, Out of the Night: A Biologist's View of the Future (Vanguard Press, 1935).
  • H. J. Muller, Studies in Genetics: The Selected Papers of H. J. Muller (Indiana University Press, 1962).

Bibliography

People who worked in his lab in Indiana [2]
Worked in lab as undergraduates
  • George D. Snell
Former post-doctoral fellows

Former graduate students

Muller is survived by his daughter, Helen J. Muller, now a professor emerita at the University of New Mexico, who has a daughter, Mala Htun. His son, David E. Muller, a professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science at the University of Illinois and at New Mexico State University, died in 2008 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. David's mother was Jessie Jacobs Muller Offermann, Hermann's first wife. Helen's mother was Dorothea Kantorowicz Muller, Hermann's second wife.

Personal life

H. J. Muller and science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin were second cousins; his father (Hermann J. Muller Sr.) and her father's mother (Johanna Muller Kroeber) were siblings, the children of Nicholas Müller who immigrated to the United States in 1848, and at that time dropped the umlaut from his name. Another cousin was Herbert J. Muller, whose grandfather Otto was another son of Nicholas and a sibling of Hermann Sr. and Johanna.[24]

He was awarded the Linnean Society of London's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal in 1958 and the Kimber Genetics Award of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1955.[22] He served as president of the American Humanist Association from 1956 to 1958. The American Mathematical Society selected him as its Gibbs Lecturer for 1958.[23]

The Nobel Prize, in the wake of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, focused public attention on a subject Muller had been publicizing for two decades: the dangers of radiation. In 1952, nuclear fallout became a public issue; since Operation Crossroads, more and more evidence had been leaking out about radiation sickness and death caused by nuclear testing, and Muller was one of the foremost experts. Muller—and many other scientists—pursued an array of political activities to defuse the threat of nuclear war. With the Castle Bravo fallout controversy in 1954, the issue became even more urgent. In 1955 Muller was one of eleven prominent intellectuals to sign the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, the upshot of which was the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs in 1957, which addressed the control of nuclear weapons.[3][21] He was a signatory (with many other scientists) of the 1958 petition to the United Nations, calling for an end to nuclear weapons testing, which was initiated by the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling.[3]

In 1946 Muller was awarded the Edward Tatum's work on Neurospora that established the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis.[20]

When Muller returned to the United States in 1940, he took an untenured research position at Amherst College, in the department of Otto C. Glaser. After the U.S. entry into World War II, his position was extended indefinitely and expanded to include teaching. His Drosophila work in this period focused on measuring the rate of spontaneous (as opposed to radiation-induced) mutations. Muller's publication rate decreased greatly in this period, from a combination of lack of lab workers and experimentally challenging projects. However, he also worked as an adviser to the Manhattan Project (though he did not know that was what it was), as well as a study of the mutational effects of radar. Muller's appointment was ended after the 1944–1945 academic year, and despite difficulties stemming from his socialist political activities, he found a position as professor of zoology at Indiana University.[18] Here, he lived in a Dutch Colonial Revival house in Bloomington's Vinegar Hill neighborhood.[19]

Muller's house in Bloomington, Indiana.

Later career

Muller—with about 250 strains of Drosophila—moved to Edinburgh in September 1937, after a brief stay in Madrid and Paris. In 1938, with war on the horizon, he began looking for a permanent position back in the United States. He also began courting Dorothea "Thea" Kantorowicz, a German refugee; they were married in May 1939. The Seventh International Congress on Genetics was held in Edinburgh later that year; Muller wrote a "Geneticists' Manifesto"[16] in response to the question: "How could the world's population be improved most effectively genetically?" He also engaged in a debate with the perennial genetics gadfly Richard Goldschmidt over the existence of the gene, for which there remained little direct physical evidence.[17]

In the USSR, Muller supervised a large and productive lab, and organized work on medical genetics. Most of his work involved further explorations of genetics and radiation. There he completed his eugenics book, Out of the Night, the main ideas of which dated to 1910.[14] By 1936, however, Joseph Stalin's repressive policies and the rise of Lysenkoism was making the USSR an increasingly problematic place to live and work. Muller and much of the Russian genetics community did what they could to oppose Trofim Lysenko and his Larmarckian evolutionary theory, but Muller was soon forced to leave the Soviet Union after Stalin read a translation of his eugenics book and was "displeased by it, and...ordered an attack prepared against it."[15]

In September 1932, Muller moved to Berlin to work with the Russian expatriate geneticist Nikolay Timofeeff-Ressovsky, a trip intended as a limited sabbatical stretched into an eight-year, five-country journey. In Berlin, he met two physicists who would later be significant to the biology community: Niels Bohr and Max Delbrück. The Nazi movement was precipitating the rapid emigration of scientific talent from Germany, and Muller was particularly opposed to the politics of National Socialism. But the FBI was investigating Muller because of his involvement with The Spark, so he chose instead to go to the Soviet Union (an environment better suited to his political beliefs). In 1933, Muller and his wife reconciled, and she and their son David E. Muller moved with Hermann to Leningrad. There, at the Institute of Genetics, he imported the basic equipment for a Drosophila lab—including the flies—and set up shop. The Institute was moved to Moscow in 1934, and Muller and his wife were divorced in 1935.[13]

Work in Europe

His lab grew quickly, but it shrank again following the onset of the Great Depression. Especially after the stock market crash, Muller was increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of capitalism. Some of his visiting lab members were from the USSR, and he helped edit and distribute an illegal leftist student newspaper, The Spark. It was a difficult period for Muller both scientifically and personally: his marriage was falling apart, and he was increasingly dissatisfied with his life in Texas. Meanwhile, the waning of the eugenics movement, ironically hastened by his own work pointing to the previously ignored connections between environment and genetics, meant that his ideas on the future of human evolution had reduced impact in the public sphere.[12]

1926 marked the beginning of a series of major breakthroughs. Beginning in November, Muller carried out two experiments with varied doses of X-rays, the second of which used the crossing over suppressor stock ("ClB") he had found in 1919. A clear, quantitative connection between radiation and lethal mutations quickly emerged. Muller's discovery created a media sensation after he delivered a paper entitled "The Problem of Genetic Modification" at the Fifth International Congress of Genetics in wasps and maize. In the following years, he began publicizing the likely dangers of radiation exposure in humans (such as physicians who frequently operate X-ray equipment).[11]

Discovery of X-ray mutagenesis

Muller taught at The University of Texas from 1920 until 1932. Soon after returning to Texas, he married mathematics professor Jessie Marie Jacobs, whom he had courted previously. In his early years at Texas, Muller's Drosophila work was slow going; the data from his mutation rate studies were difficult to interpret. In 1923, he began using radium and X-rays, but the relationship between radiation and mutation was difficult to measure because such radiation also sterilized the flies. In this period, he also became involved with eugenics and human genetics. He carried out a study of twins separated at birth that seemed to indicate a strong hereditary component to I.Q. Muller was critical of the new directions of the eugenics movement (such as anti-immigration), but was hopeful about the prospects for positive eugenics.[10]

At Columbia, Muller and his collaborator and longtime friend Edgar Altenburg continued the investigation of lethal mutations. The primary method for detecting such mutations was to measure the sex ratios of the offspring of female flies. They predicted the ratio would vary from 1:1 due to recessive mutations on the X chromosome, which would be expressed only in males (who lacked the functional allele on a second X chromosome). Muller found a strong temperature dependence in mutation rate, leading him to believe that spontaneous mutation was the dominant mode (and to initially discount the role of external factors such as ionizing radiation or chemical agents). In 1920, Muller and Altenburg coauthored a seminal paper in Genetics on "modifier genes" that determine the size of mutant Drosophila wings. In 1919, Muller made the important discovery of a mutant (later found to be a chromosomal inversion) that appeared to suppress crossing-over, which opened up new avenues in mutation rate studies. However, his appointment at Columbia was not continued; he accepted an offer from the University of Texas and left Columbia after the summer of 1920.[9]

In 1914, World War I—convinced Muller to return to Columbia to teach and to expand his experimental program.[8]

Career

In the fly group, Muller's contributions were primarily theoretical: explanations for experimental results and ideas and predictions for new experiments. In the emerging collaborative culture of the drosophilists, however, credit was assigned based on results rather than ideas; Muller felt cheated when he was left out of major publications.[7]

[6]

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