50th Anniversary of the Double Helix

Historical Perspectives on DNA’s 50th Anniversary

May 14, 2003, 1:30–4:30 p.m.
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue (at 66th St.)
Caspary Auditorium


  1. 1:30 Opening Remarks: Darwin H. Stapleton, Pnina G. Abir-Am
  2. 1:40 Daniel Kevles, Yale University, “Patenting Life: Science, Ethics, and Law”
  3. 2:30 Bettyann Kevles, Yale University, “Art and DNA”
  4. 3:40 Evelyn Fox Keller, M.I.T, “Looking Backward, Looking Forward: From Nucleotide Sequence to Living Systems”

The audience will address questions to the speakers after each presentation

Maclyn McCarty
Honored Guest

Maclyn McCarty, M.D., came to Rockefeller’s hospital in 1941 to join Oswald T. Avery’s group, which was attempting to identify the chemical nature of the transforming principle in pneumococcus.

Their landmark paper, “Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types,” was published on February 1, 1944, in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. It was the first in a series of three papers that provided conclusive evidence that DNA is the carrier of genetic information. McCarty went on to purify and crystallize for the first time the DNAse enzyme, verifying that the genetic material was DNA, and laying to rest the view that it was of protein origin.

In addition to his groundbreaking laboratory research, McCarty's years at Rockefeller have included a 14-year tenure as physician-in-chief of The Rockefeller Hospital (1960 to 1974) and 13 years as a vice president (1965 to 1978). Outside of the university, McCarty performed a vital service for the people of New York City as chairman of the Public Health Research Institute from 1985 to 1992.


Evelyn Fox Keller

Evelyn Fox Keller received her Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Harvard University and is now Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at MIT. She is the author of A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1983); Reflections on Gender and Science (1985); Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death: Essays on Language, Gender and Science (1992); Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth Century Biology (1995); The Century of the Gene (2000); and Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines (2002).

Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles

Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles writes about science, technology and popular culture and is currently a lecturer in History at Yale University. In 2000 she co-authored with Marilyn Nissenson Picturing DNA. In 1997 she published Naked To The Bone: Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century, a history of the impact of X-rays and other imaging technologies on medicine, economics and culture. Earlier books include Females of the Species: Sex and Survival in the Animal Kingdom (1986), Thinking Gorillas (1981) and Watching the Wild Apes: the Primate Studies of Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas (1976) (which won awards from the New York Academy of Science and the Horn-Book-Boston Globe).

Daniel J. Kevles

Daniel J. Kevles became the Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University in 2001. He has written extensively about issues in science, politics, and society past and present. Dr. Kevles is the author most recently of The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character (1998) and a coauthor, with Pauline Maier, Alexander Keyssar, and Merritt Roe Smith, of Inventing America: A History of the United States (2002). His other works include In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (1985); The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America (1978); and, as coeditor with Leroy Hood, The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project (1992).

Pnina G. Abir-Am
Symposium Organizer

Dr. Pnina G. Abir-Am has published widely on the history of molecular biology, most recently in UNESCO’s ISSJ, June 2001, “Molecular biology in the context of British, French, and American cultures”, and in Nature Reviews—Molecular Cell Biology, January 2002, “The Rockefeller Foundation and the rise of molecular biology”.

She served as Director of Research at CNRS in Paris; taught at the University of California-Berkeley, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Universite d’Ottawa; and has been a scholar-in-residence at Rockefeller Archive Center.

Dr. Abir-Am is completing a book on Research schools of molecular biology in the UK, US, and France, 1920-1970: National traditions or transnational strategies of innovation?

Darwin H. Stapleton

Darwin H. Stapleton has been the Executive Director of the Rockefeller Archive Center since 1986. Previously he taught at Case Western Reserve University (1976-86). He has published two books on the history of American technology and co-edited an issue of Parassitologia devoted to the history of malaria (2000). Most recently he has edited the proceedings of a conference on the history of Rockefeller University, and has co-authored Dignity, Discourse and Destiny: The Life of Courtney C. Smith, both of which will appear later in 2003.

Sponsored by the Rockefeller Archive Center
15 Dayton Avenue, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591