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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oral History Program, oral history collection on the recombinant DNA controversy

Identifier: MC-0100

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection consists of over 100 oral history interview transcripts, tapes of interviews, and supporting materials concerning DNA research and the surrounding controversy. It is arranged both by types of records and by subjects, grouped in this manner by the project staff to reflect the way they gathered information. The collection is arranged in seven series: Series 1, Interviews, Transcripts, and Supporting Information; Series 2, Documents Concerning Meetings, Hearings, and Symposia; Series 3, Biohazards Material; Series 4, Position Papers and Articles; Series 5, Correspondence; Series 6, Articles, Journal and Newspaper Clippings; and Series 7, Audio and Video Tapes of Events.


  • Creation: 1966 - 1988
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1966 - 1978


Access note

This collection is open.

Digital Access Note

Some parts of this collection are available online. Links to specific online digital items are found within their entry in this finding aid.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical note

The Recombinant DNA Controversy

With the rapid progress of basic research in molecular genetics since the 1960s, genetic engineering has become a topic of discussion and concern for scientists and non-scientists alike. The controversy over recombinant DNA is part of this broad concern, though it focuses only on the technique which makes it possible to recombine DNA from organisms of different species in vitro.

Various aspects of the technique were developed between 1971 and 1973, and by the spring of 1973 it had become a relatively simple process which could be done in any molecular biology laboratory. At the Gordon Research Conference on Nucleic Acids in June of 1973, Herbert Boyer reported on his pioneering work in the field. Several conference participants expressed concern that the creation of new hybrid molecules might pose health hazards under certain circumstances, and the question was discussed briefly. As a result, Maxine Singer and Dieter Söll, co-chairpersons of the conference, wrote a letter to the president of the National Academy of Sciences, which was published in Science (September 21, 1973), asking that a study committee be set up to look into potential hazards of recombinant DNA molecules.

The National Academy asked Paul Berg, a leading researcher in the field, to head such a committee. In the course of their discussions the Berg committee decided that an international scientific conference should be held to attempt to assess the risks involved. The Berg group also decided to publicly call the scientific community's attention to the possible problems associated with the research, and to request that certain experiments be deferred until after the conference. This was done in a letter published in Science and Nature in July 1974. The decision aroused some criticism, particularly from British and European scientists. They were afraid that non-scientists would misinterpret the Berg committee's concern and evoke irrational fears of laboratory-created epidemics and monsters. There was widespread feeling in the scientific community that legislation and other external regulations should be avoided, but there was disagreement about how that aim should be accomplished. To respond to these concerns, an international conference was organized and held at the Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove, California, in February of 1975. The organizers of the conference hoped to be able to reach a consensus within the scientific community that would assure the rest of the world that the problem was under control. The Asilomar conference prepared a preliminary classification scheme for the experiments and outlined safety procedures for each class.

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) advisory committee spent the year following Asilomar drawing up detailed guidelines to cover research. There was heated debate during this period over details of classification as well as broader questions about the composition of the committee and the ability of scientists to regulate themselves. In the summer of 1975 many scientists voiced criticism of the guidelines and the process by which they were being developed. It became clear that different scientists interpreted existing data differently, that much necessary data did not exist, and that scientists differed in their feelings about regulation in general.

The first non-scientist involvement in the controversy took place in the fall of 1975 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where a faculty committee was deciding whether or not recombinant DNA research should be done on campus. A number of other faculty members in various fields argued that the experiments should not be done for safety and ethical reasons. The committee decided not to ban the research, however, and the University Regents finally approved their recommendations.

It was only after the guidelines had been revised and approved by the NIH committee that non-scientists got involved on the national level. Representatives of environmental and public interest groups were invited to a meeting called by the director of NIH in February of 1976 to air opinions of the draft guidelines. Although many people were critical, the guidelines were not substantially altered before their publication in June.

Groups such as the Friends of Earth, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Science for the People, and academics from many fields, continued their criticism of the way the issue was being handled. The debate revolved around technical questions of risk assessment and policy questions about the regulation of science. Are scientists who have a stake in continuing certain experiments capable of judging the hazards of those experiments? Should granting agencies also regulate research? How can non-scientists be involved in science policy-making? How should priorities for basic research be set?

In the year after the NIH guidelines were published, discussion of the issues broadened. The proposed renovation of laboratory space for recombinant DNA research at Harvard University provoked a controversy in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Non-scientists were involved in a review committee mandated by the Cambridge City Council to assess the health hazards of the research for Cambridge citizens. Their recommendations were eventually incorporated into a city ordinance which stipulated that a city biohazards committee would have same voice in monitoring research done at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The issue flared up elsewhere. Citizens in San Diego, California; Princeton, New Jersey; Amherst, Massachusetts; and other cities learned of the controversy at public hearings. Meanwhile, state and federal officials discussed whether legislation should be passed to regulate the research. Hearings were held in New York and California. Since early 1977, Washington, DC had been the focus of the debate, with several bills introduced into Congress. At issue was whether the government should be able to control basic research, whether federal regulations should pre-empt local restrictions, and what regulatory mechanism, if any, should be used.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Project

In 1975, shortly after the Asilomar conference, an oral history project was initiated to ensure the preservation of unique source materials essential for understanding the history of the controversy and the social impact of this unprecedented extension of molecular biology. The project was directed by Charles Weiner, Professor of History of Science and Technology at MIT. It was funded by the National Science Foundation (Program on Ethical and Value Implications of Science and Technology), the National Endowment for the Humanities (Program of Science, Technology, and Human Values), and the MIT Oral History Program. In addition to Charles Weiner, the interviewers were William Bennett, Paul De Forest, Rae Goodell, Joel Gurin, Lynette Maloney, Aaron Seidman, and Mary Terrall.

The Recombinant DNA History Collection is the product of that project and is housed in the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) of MIT. The collection consists of interview transcripts, written material, and audio and video tapes of events. Interviews were conducted with scientists involved in recombinant DNA research, policy-makers and advisors charged with the creation of guidelines or regulatory legislation, individuals who publicly criticized or supported these efforts, and journalists covering the developments. The interviews focus on the backgrounds, motivations, value perceptions, and actions of the interviewees, while discussing the roles they played in the debate and the effects the controversy had on them.

Among its activities, the project staff also gathered written sources consisting of documents, correspondence, and press clippings. The material was arranged and indexed on cards, which are included in the collection. Indexing of written sources was terminated in August 1978; however, materials have been added to the collection since that date.

The project staff stayed abreast of events as they unfolded by attending committee meetings, conferences, and government hearings. Included in the collection are audio and video tapes of some of these sessions.

Chronology - Recombinant DNA Guidelines

Pugwash meeting of study group on biological warfare (Maaløe, Meselson, and others).
1963 Apr.
Ohio Wesleyan conference: Control of Human Heredity and Evolution.
1966 Oct.
Informal meeting at Rockefeller to discuss problem of infection of lab workers with Shope papilloma virus; also discussed prospects for genetic intervention; possibility of recombinant DNA.
Restriction enzymes isolated by Meselson and Yuan; discovery that the enzymes cleave DNA at specific sites.
Beckwith et al. isolate gene (lac operon) for the first time. Publicly (at press conference) warn of possible misuse of genetic research.
1969 Nov.
Nixon announces that US renounces chemical and biological weapons.
Khorana et al. find ligase that joins 2 separated strands of DNA; reaction is inefficient.
1971 Spring
Berg and students planning SV40 cleaving experiments.
1971 Summer
Cold Spring Harbor tumor virus workshop; Janet Mertz (Berg's student) describes proposed recombinant DNA experiment with SV40 and E.coli, Pollack (instructor) raises biohazard question; beginning" of Berg's awareness of problem and of series of discussions between Pollack and Berg.
Council for Biology and Human Affairs meeting at CSH; in vitro fertilization, genetic therapy,-genetic screening.
At CSH Tumor Virus Symposium (following workshop) A. Lewis gives paper on nondefective adeno 2-SV40 hybrids; concerned with possible biohazards.
1971 Sept. 1
A. Lewis sends C. Mulder (CSH) hybrid virus, encouraging caution & asking him not to distribute it further.
Early 1972
Jackson, Symons and Berg and Lobban and Kaiser working on terminal transferase procedure for manufacturing cohesive ends of DNA molecules.
1972 Apr.
US, UK, and USSR sign convention on prohibition of biological weapons.
1972 Summer
NATO-sponsored meeting in Sicily; evening session organized to discuss genetic engineering.
Yoshimori (Boyer's lab) isolates EcoRI restriction enzyme. Mertz and Davis find that EcoRI produces sticky ends; technique simpler than terminal transferase procedure. (Work independently reported by Sgaramella).
1972 Sept. 26-30
EMBO workshop on DNA restriction and modification, Basel, Switzerland. One evening session on construction of genetic hybrids and the implications of such on technology.
1972 Nov.
NIH Biohazards Committee set up. A. Lewis initiates NIAID action on control of supply and use of possibly hazardous hybrid viruses.
1972 Fall
Berg asks Pollack, Hellman and Oxman to organize biohazards conference (Asilomar I).
1972 Nov. 13-15
US-Japan meeting on bacterial plasmids, Honolulu, Hawaii. Boyer reports work on restriction enzymes; Boyer and Cohen informally discuss cloning experiments.
1973 Jan. 22-24
1st Asilomar conference: "Biohazards in Biological Research": state of the art meeting about tumor virus hazards.
1973 Spring
Cohen, Chang, Boyer and Helling find EcoRI cleaves pSC10l uniquely; combined 2 antibiotic resistance plasmids & inserted in coli (Published PNAS 11/73).
1973 Mar./Apr.
Smallpox outbreak in England due to lab infection: Godber Commission established to look into lab use of pathogens.
1973 June 11-15
Gordon Research Conference. Boyer presented plasmid work (see above); Boyer and Morrow talk informally about continuing this line of work; M. Singer & D. Söll write letter to NAS and 10M expressing concern of conference attendees for possible hazards of new recombinant work.
1973 Sept. 21
Singer-Söll letter published in Science. At meeting of Executive Committee of Assembly of Life Sciences, NAS, decision to set up informal committee to advise Assembly; Paul Berg selected as chairman.
1973 Oct.
NIAID policy on distributing hybrid viruses set:~Memorandum of Understanding and Agreement to be sent to all recipients of viruses.
Late 1973 - early 1974
Cohen, Boyer, Helling, Morrow, Chang, Goodman put toad ribosomal DNA into coli (Published PNAS 5/74).
1974 March 14
NSF Human Cell Biology Panel meeting; Berg raises possibility of holding conference on hazards of recombinant research.
1974 Apr. 17
Meeting of concerned scientists organized by Berg at MIT; decision made to draft statement.
1974 Apr.-May
Richard Roblin drafts letter calling for deferral of certain experiments. After revisions, letter sent to NAS (later became known as "Berg letter").
1974 May 24
Executive Committee of Assembly of Life Sciences names Berg's committee NAS Committee on Recombinant DNA Molecules.
1974 May 20-24
EMBO meeting, Ghent, Belgium. Restriction enzymes and nucleotide sequencing. Zinder, Nathans present idea of Berg committee statement; general agreement.
1974 June
CHS Symposium on tumor viruses; Baltimore reads committee's tentative statement.
1974 July 18
Press conference announcing Berg letter; Berg, Baltimore and Roblin meet with Jacobs afterward.
1974 July 19
Berg letter published (with one paragrah omitted) in Nature.
1974 July 26
Berg letter published in Science. AshbyWorking Party set up in England as response to letter.
1974 Aug. 28 - Sept. 2
24th Pugwash Conference, Baden, Austria; discussion of biohazards of new research.
1974 Sept. 10
Meeting of Asilomar organizing committee, MIT.
1974 Sept. 16
Controversy program (BBC); Berg, Anderson, Pollack, Pritchard, McLaren; debate about moratorium.
1974 Sept.
lAMS ad hoc meeting in Tokyo to discuss biohazards. Postponed recommendations till after Asilomar.
1974 Oct. 7
NIH Recombinant DNA Molecule Program Advisory Committee established.
1974 Oct. 10-12
Conference in Davos, Switzerland; ethical implications of genetic engineering; control of science.
1974 Nov.
1st meeting of plasmid and animal virus Asilomar panels.
1974 Dec.
University of Michigan Vice-President for Research (C. Overberger) appoints Committee on Microbiological Research Hazards to look at U-M potential for recombinant DNA research.
1975 Jan. 21
Ashby report published.
1975 Feb. 22-23
Meetings of Asilomar panels.
1975 Feb. 24-27
International conference on recombinant DNA, Asilomar, California.
1975 Feb. 28
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, San Francisco; 1st effort at implementing Asilomar recommendations.
1975 Mar. 14-16
Squaw Valley plasmid meeting. 1 hr. session on Asilomar.
1975 Mar. 24
American Cancer Society Science Writers Seminar; discussion of recombinant DNA by Berg and Baltimore.
1975 Apr. 3
University of Michigan Microbiological Research Hazards Committee (Folk committee) submits report on importance of recombinant DNA research for U-M: recommends building containment lab.
1975 Apr. 22
Senate Sub-committee on Health. (Sen. Kennedy, chair) hearing on genetic engineering.
1975 May
Harvard applies to NIH for funds for P3 lab.
U-M "Committee A" appointed (F. Neidhardt chair) to look into ways of improving U-M physical facilities.
Final draft of Asilomar statement submitted to be approved by NAS.
1975 May 1
ASM session: "Genetic Manipulation of Micro-organisms," NYC. Discussion session on biohazards.
1975 May 12-13
Second NIH Advisory Committee meeting.
1975 May 15-16
NY Academy of Sciences conference: "Ethical and Scientific Issues Posed by Human Uses of Molecular Genetics."
1975 May 20
Godber report published in England. Recommendations: registry of pathogens; most virulent should only be used in containment facilities; number of labs holding pathogens should be reduced.
1975 June 6
Asilomar final statement published in Science. ICI (England) announces completion of "genetic engineering" facility, Runcorn, Cheshire.
1975 June 20-21
Special meeting at WHO Advisory Committee on Medical Research; statement about importance of continuing recombinant DNA research.
1975 June
Oxford meeting to follow up on Ashby Report; discussion of implementing recommendations in Britain.
1975 July 2-3
NIH Advisory Subcommittee (Hogness chair) meeting, Stanford, to draft "Provisional Guidelines."
1975 July 19
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, Woods Hole. Draft guidelines passed, later amended (see below).
1975 July 24
WHO press release supporting recombinant DNA work (see above).
1975 August
British working party set up to design government codes of practice, based on Ashby Report.
1975 Aug. 27
Letter to Stet ten from 52 scientists at CSH phage conference; criticism of "Woods Hole Guidelines," (Goldstein and Echols organized criticism).
1975 Sept.
University of Michigan "Committee B" appointed (A. Zander, chair), committee primarily non-scientists, charged with looking into" legal, moral and social aspects of recombinant DNA research and to recommend U-M policy.
1975 Sept. 19-20
ICSU General Committee meeting, Schloss Laxenburg, Austria. Ad hoc committee set up to study recombinant DNA issue.
1975 Oct. 31
E. Kutter officially asked to serve on NIH Advisory Committee.
1975 Nov. 3
J. Sambrook meets with Kutter to incorporate animal virus working group suggestions into guidelines.
1975 Nov.
Kutter meets with NIH subcommittee to draft revised version of guidelines.
1975 Dec.
U-M Regents meeting; several faculty members voice criticisms of research publicly for the first time.
1975 Dec. 1-3
Subcommittee workshop (Falkow, Helinski, Curtiss organizers) to discuss biologically safe vectors.
1975 Dec. 4-5
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, La Jolla; new version of guidelines, based partially on revisions by Kutter's subcommittee.
1975 Dec. 9
Conference on "Socially Responsible Scientists" at U. of Chicago; discussion of genetic engineering and atomic bomb.
1976 Feb. 9-10
Special meeting, Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, Bethesda. Discussion of guidelines; public interest groups and interested laypeople present statements.
1976 Mar.
T. Rabbitts succeeds in inserting mammalian gene into bacterium.
1976 Mar. 3-4
University of Michigan recombinant DNA forum.
1976 Mar. 22
U-M "Committee B" report issued recommending guidelines for recombinant DNA research at U-M; support for NIH guidelines, ban of P4 work from U-M campus.
1976 Mar. 22-23
Tenovus Symposium, Glasgow, Scotland: "Genetic Engineering."
1976 Apr. 1-2
Conference on Biomedical Research and the Public, Airlie House. Warrenton, Virginia.
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, Bethesda; final discussion of guidelines.
1976 Apr. 14
Meeting to inform Harvard community about proposed P3 laboratory, Harvard.
1976 Apr. 15
U-M Regents meeting; summary of "Committee B" report, opposing statements oy U-M faculty.
1976 May 3
R. Davis (at ASM meeting) reports expression of eukaryotic genes in E. coli.
1976 May 4
ASM meeting, Atlantic City. NJ; Roundtable discussion of genetic engineering.
1976 May 12
U-M Regents special forum with outside speakers to answer Regents' questions.
1976 May 20
U-M Regents meeting to vote on "Committee B's" recommendations; passed 6-1.
1976 May 28
Hearing before Harvard Univ. Committee on Research Policy about P3 lab; Committee to make recommendation to Dean Rosovsky.
1976 June 2
Meeting of industry representatives and NIH Director to discuss guidelines.
1976 June 8-10
Miles Symposium on recombinant DNA, MIT. Boyer reports synthetic DNA sequence that replicates in E. coli.
1976 June 14
Cambridge City Council meeting; unanimous vote to hold special public hearing on Harvard's plans for P3 facility.
Harvard Dean Rosovsky announces approval of plans for P3 lab.
1976 June 23
Cambridge City Council public hearing; Vellucci proposes 2-year moratorium.
NIH guidelines issued; press conference in Washington.
1976 July 1-2
Heidelberg, Germany; meeting of ICSU ad hoc committee on recombinant DNA molecules.
1976 July 7
Cambridge City Council meeting; continuation of June 23 hearing; resolution passed calling for 3-month moratorium on P3 and P4 experiments in Cambridge; order passed establishing Cambridge Experimentation Review Board.
1976 July 17
City of Cambridge sponsored street fair; Harvard and MIT scientists explained pros and cons of recombinant DNA issue to interested public.
1976 Aug. 10
Cambridge City Manager announces his appointment of Cambridge Experimentation Review Board (CERB); 9 non-scientists.
1976 Aug. 25
UK, Report Of Williams Working Party published; recommends central advisory group should advise on necessary precautions.
1976 Aug. 26
First meeting of CERB; discussion of procedure and schedule.
1976 Fall
CERB meetings every Tuesday and Thursday, bearing testimony from scientists on both sides of the controversy.
1976 Sept. 6
Draft Environmental Impact Statement published by NIH in Federal Register.
1976 Sept. 12
Meeting of NIH Working Group on Safer Hosts and Vectors, Bethesda; discussion of phage systems; reported to NIH Advisory Committee.
1976 Sept. 13-14
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, Bethesda.
1976 Sept. 18-19
Meeting of EMBO Standing Advisory Committee on Recombinant DNA; produced recommendations.
1976 Sept. 22
Teach-in at MIT co-sponsored by Social Action Coordinating Committee and Science for the People.
Senate Health Subcommittee (Kennedy, chair) oversight hearing on recombinant DNA.
1976 Sept. 27
Cambridge City Council meeting; 3-month extension of moratorium passed to allow CERB to complete review process; Harvard and MIT agree.
1976 Sept. 29
Cambridge Forum; public debate bewteen G. Wald and M. Meselson.
1976 Oct.
:ICSU- Gen'eral Assembly approves formation of Committee on Genetic Experimentation (COGENE) to monitor government actions and encourage uniform policies.
1976 Oct. 13
Bloomington, Indiana public forum co-sponsored by University and City Environmental Commission to present information to citizens.
1976 Oct. 21
New York State Attorney General's Office hearings on recombinant DNA.
1976 Nov. 3
University of Indiana, Bloomington forum to discuss technical questions raised by students.
1976 Nov. 4
First Federal interagency committee meeting, Washington, DC; review of development of NIH guidelines and of events in other countries.
1976 Nov. 11
Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council file joint petition to HEW requesting public hearings on recombinant DNA.
1976 Nov. 23
CERB-sponsored debate between opponents and proponents o£ recombinant DNA research.
Federal interagency committee meeting; activities and roles of different agencies in implementation of NIH guidelines.
1973 Dec. 3
Meeting at NIH of. Fredrickson and industry representatives to discuss application of guidelines to industry.
1976 Dec. 13
First of three meetings of subcommittee of Federal interagency committee to determine whether existing legislative authority permits recombinant DNA regulation.
Meeting of NIH Working Group on Safer Hosts and Vectors.
1976 Dec. 14
Congressional Seminar on Recombinant DNA research.
1977 Jan. 5
CERa report released at public meeting; City Council meeting to discuss report.
1977 Jan. 15-16
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, Miami.
1977 Jan. 21
Cambridge City Council Ordinance Committee public hearing on recombinant DNA ordinance.
committee (B. Keene, chair) hearings on regulation of recombinant DNA research.
1977 Jan31-Feb. 1
Stanford, CA public forums on recombinant DNA.
1977 Feb. 7
Cambridge regulatory ordinance passed unanimously.
1977 Feb. 8
New York Attorney General's report and recommendations released.
1977 Mar. 3
Bill to regulate recombinant DNA research introduced into California legislature.
1977 Mar. 7-9
National Academy of Sciences Forum on recombinant DNA.
1977 Mar. 15
Interagency committee interim report (elements for legislation) released.
1977 Mar. 15-17
House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment (P. Rogers, chair) legislative hearings.
1977 Mar. 17
NIH Advisory Committee Workshop on Revision of Guidelines, Bethesda, MD.
1977 Mar. 29-31
House Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology (R. Thornton, chair) oversight hearings.
1977 Apr. 5-6
Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, ad hoc study group on recombinant DNA activities public.discussion sessions.
1977 Apr. 6
Senate Health Subcommittee (E. Kennedy, chair) legislative hearing.
1977 Apr. 12-13
USDA-NSF workshop to discuss revision of NIH guidelines, Warrenton, VA.
1977 Apr. 26
NAS passes resolution expressing concern over development of legislation for recombinant DNA.
1977 Apr. 27-28 & May 3-5
House Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology oversight hearings.
1977 May 6
Friends of the Earth file legal complaint against HEW in US District Court, New York; suit for failure to comply with NEPA with respect to recombinant DNA guidelines.
1977 May 14-15
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, Bethesda, MD; revision of guidelines.
1977 May 23
H. Goodman, et. al. (UC-San Francisco) announce successful insertion of rat insulin gene into E. coli.
1977 May 25-26
House Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology oversight hearings
1977 June
Open letter from Gordon Research Conference participants opposing Federal legislation.
1977 June 10
Rogers' House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment final mark-up on recombinant DNA bill.
1977 June 16
Senate Committee on Human Resources approval of Senate bill (S. 1217) as amended.
1977 June 20-21
NIH-sponsored risk assessment workshop, Falmouth, MA.
1977 June 22-23
NIH Advisory Committee meeting, Bethesda, MD.; revision of guidelines finished.


17408 Megabytes (12 digital audio files in 6 folders)

25 Cubic Feet (52 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 1 legal manuscript box, 1 flat box, 8 deep boxes, 1 shoe box, 344 audiotapes, 48 use copy audiocasettes, 30 videotapes and 15 use copy videotapes, 6 DVD masters and 12 use copy CDs)

Language of Materials



The recombinant DNA oral history project was begun at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975, shortly after the Asilomar Conference, an international conference of molecular biologists held in Pacific Grove, California, to assess the risks involved in recombinant DNA research and establish research guidelines. The project, directed by Charles Weiner, professor of history of science and technology at MIT, aimed to document the social impact of the research and the controversy that ensued. The collection includes interviews with over 100 scientists, policy-makers, and advisors charged with the creation of guidelines or regulatory legislation; critics and supporters of these efforts; and journalists covering the developments.


Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Major Correspondents

Represented by five or more letters
Edward Adelberg, Yale University
Ephraim S. Anderson, Public Health Laboratory, London
Eric Ashby, Cambridge, England
David Baltimore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Paul Berg, Stanford University
Sydney Brenner, Cambridge University, England
Donald Brown, Carnegie Institute
Daniel Callahan, Hastings Center, New York
A. M. Chakrabarty, General Electric, Schenectady
Stanley Cohen, Stanford University
Roy Curtiss, University of Alabama
Leslie Dach, Environmental Defense Fund
Bernard Davis, Harvard University
Peter R. Day, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
L. Douglas DeNike, Los Angeles
Stanley Falkow, University of Washington
Donald Fredrickson, National Institutes of Health
William Gartland, National Institutes of Health
Richard Goldstein, Harvard University
Harlyn O. Halvorson, American Society for Microbiology; Brandeis University
Philip Handler, National Academy of Sciences
Donald Helinski, University of California-San Diego
Robert Helling, University of Michigan
David Hogness, Stanford University
Ruth Hubbard, Harvard University
Leon Jacobs, National Institutes of Health
Niels Jerne, Basel Institute for Immunology
Daphne Kamely, National Institutes of Health
Martin Kaplan, World Health Organization
John Kendrew, European Molecular Biology Organization
Hans Kornberg, University of Leicester
Philip Leder, National Institutes of Health
Joshua Lederberg, Stanford University
Andrew Lewis, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Herman Lewis, National Science Foundation
Daniel F. Liberman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Pamela Lippe, Friends of the Earth
Lois Miller, University of Idaho
Kenneth Murray, University of Edinburgh
Daniel Nathans, Johns Hopkins University
Richard Novick, Public Health Laboratory, New York
Nick J. Panopoulos, University of California-Berkeley
Lennart Philipson, Uppsula, Sweden
Thoru Pederson, Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology
Richard Roblin, Massachusetts General Hospital
Wallace Rowe, National Institutes of Health
Frank Ruddle, Yale University
Lorna Salzman, Friends of the Earth
Phillip Sharp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Aaron Shatkin, Roche Institute
Daniel Singer, Washington, DC
Maxine Singer, National Institutes of Health
Robert Sinsheimer, Cal Tech/University of California-Santa Cruz
Oliver Smithies, University of Wisconsin
DeWitt Stetten, National Institutes of Health
Waclaw Szybalski, University of Wisconsin
Charles Thomas, Harvard/Scripps Institute
Ray Thornton, US House of Representatives
John Tooze, European Molecular Biology Organization
James D. Watson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York
Sherman Weissman, Yale University
Charles Weissmann, University of Zurich
Susan Wright, University of Michigan
Frank Young, University of Rochester
Hans G. Zachau, University of Munich
Norton Zinder, Rockefeller University


Preliminary Inventory to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oral History Program, Oral History Collection on the Recombinant DNA Controversy, 1966-1978, 1988
Data Entry In Progress
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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