Monday, February 25, 2013

Herman Muller records

by Edd Doerr

Herman Muller (1890-1967), Nobel laureate in 1946 for discovering X-ray mutagenesis and one of my predecessors as president of the American Humanist Association (1956-1958), was one of our most important scientists. After working in Berlin he was engaged in research in the USSR in the 1930s before narrowly escaping to Scotland when Stalin began pushing Lysenko's nonsense. He ended up after the war at Indiana University in Bloomington, my alma  mater.

Muller was much in demand as a speaker, so much so that it got in the way of his teaching at IU. Here is the story I heard him tell about this. He was on the road lecturing so much that he decided to record his class lectures and have a graduate assistant play them for his classes. One day his travels enabled him to pass through Indiana, so he drove down to Bloomington  with the intention of dropping in to see how one of his classes was doing. As he approached the lecture hall he could hear his recorded lecture being played.  When he opened the door the room was empty except for all the small tape recorders on every desk recording his lecture.

As a lecturer Muller spoke rather softly and very rapidly. If you sneezed you missed a couple of sentences. But you were spellbound.

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