In the 1950s, Francesc Duran i Reynals, a Spanish-born microbiologist working in the Department of Microbiology at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, developed theories about the viral etiology of cancer. At the time, these theories were often debated and argued against, but Duran i Reynals’ experiments and writings opened the field of virus-tumor research, and led to progress in the understanding of cancer and the mechanisms of spread for infectious agents in the body. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Francesc Duran i Reynals papers (1924-1960), a product of Duran i Reynals’s professional, research, and publishing activities, are being processed as part of the Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology.
Francesc Duran i Reynals (1899-1958) completed both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Barcelona, Spain, where he worked with Ramon Turro (1854-1926). He became the first Spanish scientist to culture bacterial viruses. In 1925, he moved to Paris, France, to work with Alexandre Besredka (1870-1940) and Élie Wollman (1917-2008) in a laboratory at the Institut Pasteur. Between 1926 and 1928, Duran i Reynals relocated to New York, New York, to work with Dr. James B. Murphy (1884-1950) at the Rockefeller Institute in the Department of Cancer Research, where he remained until 1934, when he returned to Spain to start a new laboratory of cancer research at the University of Madrid. However, when the Spanish Civil War halted those plans, Dr. Murphy rehired Duran i Reynals at the Rockefeller Institute, where he remained until 1938, becoming a Research Assistant in the Department of Microbiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. Later, he became a Research Associate and lecturer, and remained at Yale until his death. Duran i Reynals spent the summers from 1938 to 1957 working as a Scientific Associate at the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. His wife, Maria Luisa de Ayala, worked with him at Yale and the Jackson Memorial Laboratory, and continued his research after his death on 1958 March 28.
Duran i Reynals’s research focused on the viral etiology of cancer, studying the responses of the ground substances of tissues and necrotizing and tumor-producing cancers. His laboratory experiments demonstrated the capacity of the Rous virus to adapt to different types of bird by the infection of embryos and recently hatched birds. These experiments led to the idea of the increased sensitivity of very young animals to tumor-producing animals, which in turn has led to the detection of viruses causing leukemias and other tumors in mammals.
The papers, created throughout Duran i Reynals’s professional, research, and publishing activities, include raw research data, research notes, writings and published scientific articles, as well as reference files. The papers 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 Library. In addition to the Frances Duran i Reynals papers, the project has already led to the processing of collections of two others whose work relates to the origins of molecular genetics: the Bernard D. Davis papers, 1909-1995, and the Arthur B. Pardee papers, 1949-2001. Other collections to be opened as part of the project include the Luigi Gorini papers. For more information on the Maximizing Microbiology project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.