Posts tagged: Microbial physiology

The Bernard D. Davis Papers are open for research

By , April 22, 2016

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Bernard D. Davis papers, 1909-1995 (inclusive), 1939-1994 (bulk). Davis (1916-1994) A.B., Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was the Chair of the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology from 1957-1968 and the Adele Lehman Professor of Bacterial Physiology from 1968-1984, both at Harvard Medical School. He was a microbiologist who focused throughout his career on biochemical and genetic mutations, microbial and bacterial physiology, and the impact of science on society and culture.

Davis is most known for his scientific research in microbiology and bacterial physiology, focusing on the ribosome cycle, streptomycin, protein secretion vesicles, studies of Escherichia coli, bacterial membrane transport systems, and mechanisms of drug resistance and chemotherapy. Early in his career, Davis created the penicillin enrichment method for obtaining nutritional mutants of Escherichia coli, as did Joshua Lederberg (1925-2008), independently. While at Harvard Medical School, his key scientific findings included the details of the ribosome cycle; protein secretion vesicles; the dominance of susceptibility to streptomycin (due to the misreading of the genetic code); and in 1987, with colleague P.C. Tai, a unified mechanism of streptomycin killing. His work with Werner Maas foreshadows later findings in genetics, as well, though he did not focus primarily on genetics. Davis authored or coauthored more than 200 scientific papers, most of which are included in the Bernard D. Davis Papers.

In the latter portion of his career, Davis became an advocate for the role of science in culture, the ethics of genetic engineering, evolution and human diversity, the implications of affirmative action, and the defense of fellow scientists accused of fraud and misconduct. Davis was also a passionate teacher, and co-authored multiple editions of a new textbook for medical students, Microbiology (first edition, 1967), along with R. Dulbecco, H. Eisen, H. Ginsberg, and initially W.B. Wood. In his role as advocate, he published a collection of essays concerning contemporary controversies facing science and scientists, entitled Storm Over Biology: Essays On Science, Sentiment, and Public Policy, in 1986. Many of the papers relate to these moral and ethical issues, including correspondence, articles, and manuscript and chapter drafts.

Overall, the papers include correspondence and subject files, administrative, teaching and professional records, unpublished writings and drafts, and reprints and volumes written by Davis, as well as the collected publications of colleagues and students. This includes the manuscript of an unpublished book on the topic of scientific fraud written late in his life, and several chapters of an unpublished autobiography.

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, virology, and microbiology: the Luigi Gorini papers, 1922-1988; the Arthur B. Pardee papers, 1949-2001; the  Francesc Duran i Reynals papers, 1913-1960; the Myron Essex papers, 1949-1996; and the Harold Amos papers, 1949-2003. For more information on the project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

Bernard D. Davis Papers Processing Has Begun, as part of Maximizing Microbiology Project

By , July 17, 2015
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, c1991.

Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, c1991.

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.

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