In 1953, Bernard D. Davis conducted work on biochemically deficient mutants at a laboratory at the Department of Preventive Medicine at Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, that revolutionized microbiology. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Bernard D. Davis papers (1960-1993), a product of Davis’s professional activities, research, and long career as a teacher at Harvard Medical School, are currently being processed as part of the Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project.
Davis (1916–1994) graduated from Harvard College in 1938 and Harvard Medical School in 1940. After time working in laboratories as a research fellow and intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and as a commissioned officer of the United States Public Health Service, Davis became Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at New York University. He then served as the Chair of the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology and as Professor in the Bacterial Physiology Unit at Harvard Medical School. Following his retirement from Harvard, he served as a visiting professor at Tel Aviv University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Taiwan University, before being appointed as a Fogarty Scholar at the National Institutes of Health. He was nominated to the National Academy of Sciences in 1967, an organization for which he served as the President of the Nominating Committee. In 1989, he received the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology.
Davis produced important research which led to advances in microbial physiology and metabolism. He co-authored multiple editions of the central textbook of this area of study, Microbiology, first published in 1967. Later in life, he wrote more philosophical texts regarding the impact science has on human life and interactions, including the book Storm Over Biology: Essays on Science, Sentiment, and Public Policy (1986) and was in the midst of writing a text defending a fellow scientist after false misconduct charges at the time of his death in 1994. The papers, created throughout Davis’s professional, research, and publishing activities, include professional appointments and teaching records, writings and publications, public speaking records, professional association membership and committee records, research records, and collected publications. They are expected to be opened to research by the end of 2015.
The Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project is funded by a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Libraries. In addition to the Bernard D. Davis papers, the project will also open the collections of other scientists and professors whose work relates to the origins of molecular genetics: the Luigi Gorini papers, 1947-1980s; the Papers of Arthur B. Pardee, 1950-2000; and the Papers of Francesc Duran i Reynals, 1936-1959 (bulk). For more information on the project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.