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NLM exhibit features Nobelist Joshua Lederberg

Displayed Items Include Nobel Medal and Artifacts from a Rich Scientific Career Dr. Joshua Lederberg, who won a Nobel prize at 33, always knew he wanted to be a scientist. At age seven he succinctly expressed this desire in a short essay in smudged blue ink on school-lined paper: "I would like to be a scientist of mathematics like Einstein. I would study science and discover a few theories of science."

This piece of early writing can be seen at a small exhibit at the National Library of Medicine on the life and work of Joshua Lederberg. The exhibit coincides with his 75th birthday. Other items on display include pages from a lab notebook, Lederberg's high school microscope, his Nobel medal and diploma, letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs. The exhibit will be up through November 30.

Although Lederberg chose the biological sciences over mathematics, he never wavered in his commitment or desire to be a scientist. During World War II he wrote to a friend, "...the laboratory is more than just a dull place where you wash test tubes. There, and not on the dance floor, drill field, or battleground I'm at my best."

The dance floor's loss was science's gain. Lederberg won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958 for his research showing that bacteria can reproduce through sexual recombination and that their genetic material can be manipulated by bacterial viruses.

After winning the Nobel Prize, Lederberg became an increasingly public scientist, as the documents in the exhibit show. A letter from President John F. Kennedy thanks Lederberg for his participation on Kennedy's White House transition team. Lederberg also wrote over 200 editorials on bioethics, environmental hazards, emerging infectious diseases, and biological warfare. Dr. Walter Hickel, who curated the exhibit, says, "in combining pioneering research in genetics and computer science with political commitment in areas like environmental protection and arms control, Lederberg has
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Contact: Robert Mehnert/Kathy Cravedi
publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov
301-496-6308
NIH/National Library of Medicine
2-Jul-2000


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