Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1913–2013

Today, even after the “completion” of the Human Genome project, a broad range of disciplines wrestle with the investigation and implications of the workings of the human genome. How is information encoded and regulated? What do such findings say about health and human behavior? The Maximizing Microbiology project opened access to a total of seven manuscript collections that, among other things, demonstrate the reach of Harvard Medical School (HMS) faculty concerning the origins of molecular genetics at a critical time in the field’s development. These collections are central to understanding and contextualizing the evolution of molecular genetics in the United States, specifically: factors affecting the fidelity of the genetic code; the viral etiology of cancer; bacterial physiology, metabolism, and virology; retroviruses and AIDS; and bacterial carbohydrates and infections.

The collections include the records of HMS Bacteriology and Immunology professor Bernard D. Davis (1916-1994) whose research led to advances in microbial physiology and metabolism (H MS c190); HMS Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology professor Arthur B. Pardee (1921-), whose research impacted our understanding of messenger RNA and the molecular biology of cancer; Yale Professor of Microbiology Francesc Duran i Reynals (1899-1958), who research focused on the relationship between viral infection and cancer (H MS c195); HMS American Cancer Associate Professor Luigi Gorini (1903-1976), whose research focused on bacterial regulation, ribosome, and proteolysis (H MS c468); HMS Microbiology and Molecular Genetics professor Harold Amos (1918-2003), who studied bacterial metabolism and animal and bacterial virology (H MS c476); Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Professor of Health Sciences Myron Essex (1939-), whose research has focused on the link between retroviruses and immunosuppressive disease in animals and human beings, including HIV-AIDS (H MS c466); and HMS Microbiology and Immunology professor Dennis L. Kasper (1943-), who studies bacterial infections and bacterial carbohydrates,  including those of group B Streptococcus and bacteroides fragilis, among others, as well as the interactions of the microbiota with the mucosal and systemic immune systems (H MS c404).


This online exhibit was developed by Elizabeth Coup following the processing of seven manuscript collections funded by a Harvard Hidden Collections grant entitled Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000