Dulbecco, Renato (Virologist)
- Existence: 1914 - 2012
Background: Caltech Professor of Biology, 1952-1962; Senior Research Associate, 1949-1952.
Description: Renato Dulbecco was born in Catanzaro in the Calabria region of Italy in 1914. He earned his MD degree at the University of Turin in 1936. At Turin he studied anatomy under Giuseppe Levi and became interested in histology and tissue culture. (Levi was also the mentor of two other Nobelists besides Dulbecco: Rita Levi-Montalcini and Salvador Luria. Dulbecco and Levi-Montalcini shared lab space.) After serving in the Italian army on the Russian front to 1943, he decided to become an active partisan (anti-Fascist), while working as both a doctor and a dentist. After the war, under Levi-Montalcini's influence, he studied physics, with a view to working on genes in viruses. A reacquaintance with Luria resulted in an invitation to the US. After three years at Indiana University, he came to Caltech as a Senior Research Associate to join Max Delbruck's phage group and was soon promoted to professor. At Caltech he succeeded in creating viral plaques (1952). Shortly thereafter Dulbecco was asked to apply his new technique to the study of the polio virus. Later he would extend his work to tumor viruses. Dulbecco's groundbreaking work on viruses was recognized in 1975 with the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared with David Baltimore and Howard Temin). Dulbecco is the recipient of many other awards and honors. In 1962 he left Caltech to become director of the Salk Institute in La Jolla.
Collection Notes: Oral history, 2001: A 68-page interview conducted by Shirley K. Cohen; covers early life and education in Italy; WWII and postwar experiences; emigration to the US in 1947; work with Luria and Watson at Indiana University; early DNA experiments; meeting with Delbruck and invitation to come to Caltech; association with Caltech (1949-1962); move to Salk Institute, La Jolla; continuing work on viruses; Nobel Prize 1975; presidency of Salk Institute, 1988-1992.