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Introduction to the Exhibit

1998 marked the 25th anniversary of the development of recombinant DNA by Stanley N. Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert W. Boyer of the University of California, San Francisco. This invention made it possible to recombine and clone DNA, thus providing basic scientists with a simple and precise method for studying the structure and function of genes of higher and lower organisms. Recombinant DNA technology, as it came to be known, also became a foundation of the biotechnology industry now flourishing in the Bay Area and around the world.

The exhibit celebrates this discovery and suggests its broad implications for science, society, and industry. It also provides a glimpse of bioscience research and discovery at Berkeley preceding the recombinant DNA revolution, as documented in the archives and oral histories of four prominent scientists: Karl Meyer, Melvin Calvin, Wendell Stanley, and Gunther Stent.

Displays featuring three Bay Area biotechnology companies round out the exhibit. From the hundreds of local firms in this center of the biotechnology industry we selected Chiron Corporation, Genentech, Inc., and Tularik, Inc., because of their close ties to the University of California and because we have conducted oral histories with their founders under the auspices of The Bancroft Library's Program in the History of the Biological Sciences and Biotechnology.

Interwoven through the displays are several continuous themes: the interaction between academic science and industry; the patenting of discoveries in basic university science; and bioentrepreneurship. One intention is to suggest that issues some consider uniquely new to contemporary bioscience, in fact, have deep historical roots; for instance, the close interplay between academic research and the marketplace. The exhibit also demonstrates that the current debate over the ethics of human cloning and the patenting of genes reaches back at least as far as the recombinant DNA controversy of the 1970s and the Cohen-Boyer patents of the 1980s.

On a lighter note, Larry Gonick's and Mark Wheelis' Cartoon Guide to Genetics reflects public interest in the revolution in 20th century biology as only humor can. We begin with their pages, as they provide all visitors a common point of entry to a very complex subject.
 

Exhibit Lenders: We are grateful to the following for generously loaning material for the exhibit. Chiron Corporation; Stanley N. Cohen; Department of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley; Exploratorium; Genentech, Inc.; Larry Gonick; Edward E. Penhoet; William J. Rutter; Gunther S. Stent; Robert T. Tjian; Tularik, Inc.; and UC San Francisco Library and Center for Knowledge Management

Exhibit Committee: Catherine Dinnean, David Farrell, Alyse Han, Nancy Harris, Richard Hitchcock, Sally Smith Hughes, William Roberts, Morgan Schwartz, Clae Styron, Marilyn Taylor, Nancy Whitten Zinn
 
 


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