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Delbrück, Max (Biologist, Nobel Laureate)



  • Existence: 1906 - 1981


Background: Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, 1969; Caltech professor of biology, 1947-1977; pioneer in the field of molecular genetics.


Description: Born in Berlin, Delbrück was the youngest member of a large intellectual family. During 1931-32 he studied with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen, and W. Pauli in Zurich. Bohr, in particular, had a major influence on Delbrück, and provoked his interest in biology with the claim that the complementarity principle of quantum mechanics could be applied to other sciences, especially biology. Delbrück left Germany in 1937 because of Nazism and came to the United States. In 1940 he began his forty-year association with Cold Spring Harbor. In 1947 he became professor of biology at Caltech. His Nobel Prize, awarded in 1969 in Physiology or Medicine, was shared with A. D. Hershey and S. E. Luria for work they collaborated on in the 1940s.


Collection Notes: Oral history, 1978. This 113-page oral history was done in 6 sessions. It includes Delbrück's memories of his family and early education; university education (Germany, 1924-32); early career in Germany and the period leading up to World War II; Phage work and the phage group (1937-1946); life and research at Caltech; physicists and biology; and postwar visits to Germany.

Papers, 1906-1981. The bulk of the material in this collection is related to Delbrück's professional life and focuses on the years between 1930 and 1980. The papers chronicle his role in the development of molecular biology while supplying abundant evidence of the strong personality which attracted attention and even devotion from scientists and nonscientists alike. Particularly interesting is the personal correspondence, which makes up more than half of the collection and covers the years 1932-1981. Also included are papers relating to his institutional affiliations, professional organizations and meetings, technical files, lectures, manuscripts, selected reprints, biographical and personal material.

Collection size: 44 boxes plus one box supplemental materials, 16 linear ft.

Finding aid available at the Archives.

Photo of Max Delbrück (PhotoNet)

See also: Manny Delbrück

Found in 41 Collections and/or Records:

PhD Diploma 1931

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00154

PhD Diploma 1931

Identifier: HistoricalFiles_?

Presentation Of The Buchman Memorial Award

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1995-00081

Re: Bacteriophages,Etc

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00151

The Arrow Of Time

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00149

The Equation of Time

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 2006-00041

The Equation of Time [sound recording]

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 2006-00042

Additional filters:

Unprocessed Material 34
Archival Object 5
Collection 2
Biology 16
Lecture 6
Manuscript Collection 4
Frontiers Of Science 3
Nobel Prize 3