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A laboratory in need of modernization


Joining the microbiology graduate team at the University of Pennsylvania
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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I was accepted as a graduate student. And unfortunately this fellow, whose name was Harry Morton, a wonderful guy, a rather stiff fellow, but still a very good teacher, decided that he didn’t want... couldn’t take me as a student, because he had too many students already. That was a big disappointment, but as it turned out it didn’t have a great negative effect. I was assigned to be the student of a new assistant professor, who technically was not allowed to have graduate students, but on paper I was the student of the department chairman to get around that red tape. So I was technically the student of the chairman of the department, whose name was Stuart Mudd, M-U-D-D, a very well-known microbiologist at that time, a wonderful man, very liberal, who got himself, unfortunately, into a lot of trouble because he started... at one point in his career, I guess a few years after I got there, had founded an organisation called Russian-American Friendship Society in an effort to try to overcome the vast misunderstandings between the two countries. And as a result of that he suffered by a lot of rightwing nationalists, but he was independently wealthy, fortunately so, he could overcome that. But it coloured his experience and also the experience... understanding and knowledge of some of the students who realised what a great guy he was, that his motivations were purely to help countries and help people and on the other hand, he suffered these terrible blows from the rightwing. So that was, kind of, important attitude that coloured some of my experience and that of others.

My adviser, this assistant professor, his name was Warren Steinbring, again a very nice soft-spoken fellow, husky build, was a former football player, he was fascinated with microorganisms as I was. And also I had a fellow student assigned to the same young professor, a man by the name of Frank Kapral. And Frank was a committed microbiologist and committed not only to microbiology, but to a specific organism, that is, a streptococci and he could not be dissuaded from working with any other organism but that. My interests, of course, were with these strange mycoplasmas.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Russian-American Friendship Society, Harry Morton, Stuart Mudd, Warren Stinebring, Frank E Kapral

Duration: 3 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012