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Abstract Detail

History of Botany: The Missouri Connection

Coe Jr, Edward [1].

Lewis J. Stadler: The Nature of the Gene, and a Clue to DNA.

Lewis John Stadler was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. A giant of theoretical genetics, he was a brilliant experimenter into the nature of genes. His remarkable prescience about the chemical nature of the genetic material was fulfilled as his career closed, when Watson and Crick accurately described DNA. Surprisingly, no special future was evident early: by his own report he was 57th in his high school class of 69. Even in graduate school days he failed to impress faculty during a brief stay at Cornell in 1919. He completed the PhD at the University of Missouri in 1922 and spent his career on the University faculty, appointed jointly from 1930 on with USDA, until 1954. His early research was on hybridization and selection of pure lines in crops, and on natural variability and diversity. By 1924 he was studying (1) variability of crossing-over and (2) spontaneous and induced mutation, which presaged his career contributions. Soon he demonstrated x-ray induced mutation (1928), coincident with studies by Muller on Drosophila. A classic 1929 study showed that mutation rate decreases with increased ploidy. McClintock used materials and advice received from him during her postdoctoral visit (1931). His intellectual leadership by 1936 drew together vigorous, interacting, creative scientists who treasured lunchtime exchanges. With typical elegant design he applied “different ultra-violet wave-lengths as a possible clue to the chemical nature of the substance which absorbs the radiation producing genetic effects” (1939) and correctly predicted that DNA was the genetic material. Intensive research on spontaneous changes in one selected locus further drew upon his analytical skills, superbly displayed in his valedictory paper, “The Gene” (1955). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and held numerous other honors and responsibilities. His correspondence shows significant humanitarian actions. Rhoades notes in a Memoir for NAS that “Stadler had a rich, warm personality, full of understanding and sympathy for points of view different from his own."

Broader Impacts:

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1 - UNIV OF MISSOURI, 202 CURTIS HALL, Columbia, MO, 65211-7020, USA

spontaneous mutation
x-ray induced mutation
Ultraviolet-induced mutation
DNA action spectrum
theoretical genetics
the nature of the gene.

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY05
Location: Lindell D/Chase Park Plaza
Date: Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
Time: 10:45 AM
Number: SY05007
Abstract ID:90

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