Robbins, William Jacob, 1890-Variant names
William Jacob Robbins was a botanist and plant physiologist.
From the description of Papers, 1898-1974. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122589265
William Jacob Robbins (1890-1978) was Director-in-Chief of The New York Botanical Garden from 1937-1958. He was a specialist in plant physiology and microbiology. Robbins studied Bryophyllum and Hedera helix; the nutritional requirements of filamentous fungi; as well as vitamin synthesis, growth and the physiology of aging in plants. Before joining NYBG, Robbins was Professor of Botany at the Alabama Polytechnic University (1916) and Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Botany at the University of Missouri (1919-1937) during which time he also served as Dean of the Graduate School and Acting President. In 1947 he travelled to Japan with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate and make recommendations for the rebuilding of Japan's intellectual institutions after World War II. He was on the board of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (1944-1973). He was President of the American Philosophical Society (1956-1959) and President of the Fairchild Tropical Garden (1962-1969). He was Vice-President of the 3rd International Microbiological Conference (1939)and the Torrey Botanical Club (1943-1944)among many other offices in the botanical community. Robbins received his A.B. from Leheigh University and his Ph. D. in plant physiology from Cornell in 1915. He was born on Feb. 22, 1890 in North Platte, Nebraska and grew up in Muncie and Bethlehem, PA. He died in New York City, NY on Oct. 5, 1978.
From the description of William Jacob Robbins records 1918-1978. (New York Botanical Garden). WorldCat record id: 44168021
Botanist, director of New York Botanical Garden.
From the description of Reminiscences of William J. Robbins : oral history, 1973. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122574089
Robbins was director of the New York Botanical Garden, 1937-1957.
From the description of Oral history project interview transcript, 1973. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155463947
William Jacob Robbins (1890-1978) was Director-in-Chief of The New York Botanical Garden from 1937-1958. He was a specialist in plant physiology and microbiology. Robbins studied Bryophyllum and Hedera helix; the nutritional requirements of filamentous fungi; as well as vitamin synthesis, growth and the physiology of aging in plants. Before joining NYBG, Robbins was Professor of Botany at the Alabama Polytechnic University (1916) and Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Botany at the University of Missouri (1919-1937) during which time he also served as Dean of the Graduate School and Acting President.
In 1947 he traveled to Japan with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate and make recommendations for the rebuilding of Japan's intellectual institutions after World War II. He was on the board of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (1944-1973). He was President of the American Philosophical Society (1956-1959) and President of the Fairchild Tropical Garden (1962-1969). He was Vice-President of the 3rd International Microbiological Conference (1939)and the Torrey Botanical Club (1943-1944)among many other offices in the botanical community. Robbins received his A.B. from Leheigh University and his Ph.D. in plant physiology from Cornell in 1915. He was born on Feb. 22, 1890 in North Platte, Nebraska and grew up in Muncie and Bethlehem, PA. He died in New York City, NY on Oct. 5, 1978.
From the description of William Jacob Robbins records, 1918-1978. (New York State Historical Documents). WorldCat record id: 155483889
Albert Francis Blakeslee, a geneticist and botanist, served as the director of Smith College Genetics Experiment Station from 1943-1954.
Albert Blakeslee's boyhood was spent in East Greenwich, Connecticut, where he early exhibited a strong liking for natural history. This leaning was not encouraged by his pragmatic father, who wanted the boy's education to plan for a financially independent career; but his mother was more sympathetic. After the two years of teaching at Montpelier Academy in Vermont, his natural inclinations were not to be denied, and he entered graduate study at Harvard with a determination to become a botanist. His Harvard professors, Farlow and Thaxter, greatly helped Blakeslee's development as a botanist. He engaged in a classification of the Mucors and discovered the positive and (sexual) zygospores and observed their sexual fusion to start the diploid phase of the Mucor life cycle. His summer in Venezuela as a plant collector for the Harvard Cryptogamic Herbarium (1903) and his two summers of teaching nature study in the Cold Spring Harbor courses broadened his knowledge of plants and generated in him a deep love of teaching. Thus, when he went to Germany for a postdoctoral fellowship in 1904, he was already becoming well known as a botanist.
At the University of Halle he worked under the distinguished mycologist Klebs for two years, with some stay during the period at the Universities of Berlin, Leipzig, and Oxford. This fellowship was supported by the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Blakeslee became fluent in the German language, as became apparent in later years when such a distinguished authority as Erwin Baur, plant geneticist, sent to Blakeslee in preference to any other English-speaking biologist a copy of his proposed publication on the dysgenic effects upon German life and culture of the post-war occupation of Germany's Rhineland by the French. Baur requested Blakeslee to be so good as to translate the communication into good English, edit it, and submit it for him to some American journal, such as Eugenical Notes, edited by Davenport. The original manuscript by Baur, the translation and very extensive editing -- really a toning down -- by Blakeslee, and the subsequent letter of withdrawal of the communication by Baur are all in the Blakeslee Papers, an invaluable addition to our knowledge of the course of German eugenics in the period between the two World Wars (see B. Glass, "A Hidden Chapter of German eugenics between the two World Wars," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 125: 357-367, 1981). While in Germany Blakeslee spent much time in art museums and attendance at concerts, and formed cultural tastes that were a lifelong joy to him.
Upon returning from Germany, Blakeslee accepted an appointment as professor of botany at the Connecticut Agricultural College, later to become the University of Connecticut. He taught many courses, in summer as well as during the regular year, and collaborated with C.D. Jervis in two popular handbooks for the identification of trees in New England and in winter. He made crosses of tree species, and successfully produced the first interspecific hybrid pine. His broad concern with social applications of botany and with teaching are to be seen in his paper presented in an American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium in 1909 on the subject, "The Botanic Garden as a Field Museum of Agriculture." He also conducted research on the genetics of poultry, and found certain genetic traits with visible effects that were linked with high egg yield; also he uncovered a negative correlation between yellow color and the time of a year when the last egg is laid. He discovered that Rudbeckia hirta, the black-eyed Susan, is a frequently mutating species. Beginning what was to become his most famous genetical work, that with the jimson weed, Datura stramonium, he worked out the simple Mendelian inheritance of white versus purple flower color and of spiny versus smooth seed capsules. In 1914-1915, he gave, at Storrs, the first college course in genetics in the United States. Also, while on leave and at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a research investigator, he resumed his early work on the Mucors; and in Datura found, in 1913, his first trisomic type, the "Globe" seedpod type, which has 2N + 1 chromosomes.
In 1915 Blakeslee was invited by C. B. Davenport, Director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor, to fill the place just vacated by George Harrison Shull, who was transferring to Princeton University. Blakeslee accepted, although he much regretted the loss of his opportunities to teach. He remained at Cold Spring Harbor until he retired in 1941, at the age of 67. He became greatly renowned for his work on Datura stramonium, in which he eventually found a trisomic type for every one of the twelve chromosome pairs in the species, each type recognizable by a distinctive phenotype of the seed capsule. With his assistants, he raised as many as 70,000 Datura plants in each summer. In 1920, he was joined by John Belling, a gifted cytologist, as his collaborator. They developed the skilled art of making acetocarmine stains of smeared plant chromosomes, a technique that became universally adopted as an enormous time-saver and also one productive of better microscopic differentiation of the chromosomes in the set. The typical chromosome numbers for many species of flowering plants were determined by the team.
In 1924, Dorothy Bergner replaced John Belling as Blakeslee's principal coworker. With Bergner, Blakeslee discovered a thirteenth trisomic in Datura. As there are only 12 chromosome pairs, a different explanation was sought, and found. There are also secondary trisomics, in which one arm of a primary chromosome has been doubled while its other arm is missing. Such a chromosome, added to the 12 types in which an entire chromosome is extra, greatly increases the diversity of chromosomal types. In search of the origin of these secondaries, numerous translocation types were found, types in which parts of two primary chromosomes had undergone a reciprocal interchange. In the pairing of homologous chromosomes that takes place during meiosis, these aberrations give rise to rings of four associated chromosomes, two normal plus two translocation chromosomes in the ring. Non-disjunction is a frequent consequence, and additional types of trisomics result. The discovery in natural populations of so much chromosomal diversity was a stepping-stone to the new evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s. Polyploid and triploid Daturas were also found, as populations from various parts of the world were analyzed. In 1937 it was discovered that colchicine will paralyze mitotic cell division and give rise to cells in which the chromosome number has been doubled. Using this technique, Blakeslee and Bergner produced polyploids, periclinal chimeras; and a new research assistant, Sophie Satina, collaborated in working out cell lineages during plant development.
Other collaborations, going back many years, were with E.W. Sinnott on quantitative inheritance, with I.T. Buchholz on pollen tube growth, with C.S. Gager on the use of radium to produce mutations. By means of exposures to radium or X-rays, 541 different gene loci were identified by mutation, 81 of which were mapped to a specific chromosome. It was also found that there was an increase of mutations during the storage of seeds. With I. van Overbeek, Blakeslee applied the techniques of tissue culture to the study of Datura genetic types.
In 1931, Blakeslee became deeply interested in the human inheritance of taste sensitivity to a chemical substance, PTC (phenylthiocarbamide). It is intensely bitter to most persons, but tasteless to others. Blakeslee checked this capacity in identical twins and found they were always similar in their capacity to taste PTC, or inability to taste it. He gave many popular lectures and demonstrations of this novel aspect of human heredity.
Blakeslee became involved in the administration of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as early as 1923, and moved to greater and greater responsibility as Davenport aged. Upon Davenport's retirement in 1936, Blakeslee was the natural choice to succeed him. By this time he was one of America's foremost geneticists. He had helped to reorganize the American Journal of Botany in 1935, had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and to the American Philosophical Society, and had been honored by many foreign scientific and learned organizations.
Upon retiring at Cold Spring Harbor, Blakeslee spent two years as a research associate at Columbia University, but found in 1942 an ideal situation for his "retirement" years in an appointment as a visiting professor at Smith College. Here he started up a four-college conference (Smith College, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and Massachusetts State College -- later the University of Massachusetts) on Genetics, and a second on Human Relations. He initiated an active program of genetics at Smith College. With Miss Satina, he continued research on Datura by utilizing the technique of raising plant embryos in cell culture, in order to determine at what stage of development particular abnormal types led to deviations from normality, and just what they were. He became president of the Smith College Faculty Club, and worked to improve the conditions of retired faculty members. He spent much effort on human relations of the town-gown sort. As in previous periods of his life, he attended many foreign scientific congresses, for example, all of the Botanical Congresses (until 1950), and the Indian Scientific Congress in 1947. He was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 1948-1949. Upon his death, he left his estate to the National Academy of Sciences as trustee to provide continued assistance in maintaining and further developing a balanced genetics research program at Smith College. His personality was marked by great versatility, good humor, and a live social conscience. He was generous in giving credit to others in joint activities, yet in general somewhat reticent. These traits are reflected in some of his correspondence.
From the guide to the Albert Francis Blakeslee papers, 1904-1954, 1904-1954, (American Philosophical Society)
Max Bergmann (February 12, 1886-November 7, 1944) was a biochemist, whose research proved key for the study of biochemical processes. His work on peptide synthesis and protein splitting provided a starting point for modern protein chemistry and the study of enzyme-substrate interactions. He is most noted for developing the carbobenzoxy protecting group, for the synthesis of oligopeptides, using any amino acid in any sequence. He co-authored with his colleague Joseph S. Fruton (1912-2007, APS 1967) several reviews in protein and enzyme chemistry, notably “Proteolytic Enzymes,” in the Annual Review of Biochemistry 10 (1941): 31-46 and “The Specificity of Proteinases,” in Advances in Enzymology 1 (1941): 63-98.
Bergmann was born in Fürth, Germany, the son of a coal merchant named Solomon Bergmann and his wife Rosalie Stettauer. He entered the University of Munich, initially interested in botany, but shifted to chemistry, after being convinced that biological questions could only be answered by the methods of organic chemistry. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1907, and afterward became a student of Emil Fischer (1838-1914, APS 1909), the foremost protein and carbohydrate chemist of the day at the University of Berlin. In 1911 Bergmann received a Ph.D. with a dissertation on acyl polysulfides and became Fischer’s research assistant. In 1912 Bergmann married Emmy Miriam Grunwald with whom he had two children. The marriage ended in divorce, and he remarried Martha Suter in 1926. During World War I Bergmann was exempted from military service because of his research work with Fischer. While working with Fischer, Bergmann made important contributions to carbohydrate, lipid, tannin and amino acid chemistry, developing new methods for the preparation of α-monoglycerides. In 1920 Bergmann was appointed Privatdozent at the University of Berlin and head of the chemistry department at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Textile Research.
Bergmann left the University of Berlin in 1921 to become the director of the new Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Leather Research and Professor of chemistry at the Dresden Technical University. At Dresden, Bergmann created one of the world’s leading laboratories for the study of protein chemistry. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Bergmann, a Jew, emigrated to the United States. From 1934 until his death Bergmann was affiliated with the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York.
Bergmann represents the tradition of German organic chemistry applied to biological problems. Working with his mentor Fischer, who sought effective methods to separate and identify amino acids, and who identified the peptide bond as the structure that connects amino acids, Bergmann made many basic contributions to protein and amino acid chemistry. In Dresden he extended Fischer’s work of separating and identifying the amino acid constituents of proteins. In order to establish the conjecture of some protein chemists that proteins were, in fact, polypeptides, containing thousands of amino acids, Bergmann developed new methods of peptide synthesis. The most important discovery came in 1932, when he and his colleague Leonidas Zervas created the carbobenzoxy method allowing them to use any amino acid in any sequence to produce peptides and polypeptides that closely resembled naturally occurring proteins.
Bergmann continued this work in New York at the Rockefeller Institute, stressing two new lines of research: (1) expanding the carbobenzoxy method to form peptides that could serve as substrates for protein-splitting enzymes, and (2) unraveling the total structure of proteins. After becoming head of the chemistry laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute in 1937, Bergmann recruited several talented biochemists. Along with his colleague Joseph Fruton, he discovered the first synthetic peptide substrates for which several enzymes were catalysts. When they demonstrated that the enzyme pepsin was able to catalyze the hydrolysis of synthetic peptides, they implicated the peptide bond in protein structure, but also provided the first clear evidence that specific enzymes split peptides at exact linkages in the chain. Their discovery cleared the path for study of how enzymes act as catalysts for every biological function.
Bergmann’s methods of analysis and synthesis proved incapable of solving the riddle of protein structure. He applied methods for separation and quantitative analysis to every amino acid in a protein in an attempt to establish their sequence in the polypeptide chain. In 1938 he proposed a theory of the systematic recurrence in the location of every amino acid residue in the peptide chain of a protein. However, his hypothesis proved an oversimplification. Two biochemists in his working group, Standford Moore and William Stein, showed him that the analytical data did not support his “periodic theory,” and Bergmann was forced to abandon it. Moore and Stein later collaborated in developing novel methods for quantitative analysis of amino acids in protein hydrolysates, methods they perfected after World War II. By 1949 it was possible to determine the order of the links of each amino acid in a protein. The Englishman Frederick Sanger was the first to establish the complete amino acid sequence in a protein, the hormone insulin. Moore and Stein followed by identifying the sequence of a more complex protein, the enzyme ribonuclease.
Bergman died of cancer in New York City on November 7, 1944. His mastery of peptide synthesis and protein splitting constituted the beginnings of modern protein chemistry. Bringing to the United States a background in German organic chemistry, he laid the foundations for the work of others, who would fulfill Bergmann’s goal of understanding and mapping the molecular structure of proteins and enzymes. His research colleagues found him a supportive leader and collaborator. He coauthored a number of publications with other members of his research group.
From the guide to the Max Bergmann papers, [ca. 1930]-1945, 1930-1945, (American Philosophical Society)
William Jacob Robbins (1890-1978, APS 1941) was a botanist and physiologist. From 1937 to 1957 he was director of the New York Botanical Garden. His research focused on culture methods of plants in relation to biochemistry and nutrition, especially on the synthetic abilities of fungi. His studies paralleled the scientific agenda of the Rockefeller Foundation, an agency with which he was closely associated for years as adviser and trustee. He was perhaps the most influential botanist in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) during the early postwar era, and a principal participant in the plans for the global reconstruction of science. Robbins served as president of the American Philosophical Society from 1956 to 1959.
Robbins was born in 1890 in North Platte, Nebraska, the son of Frederick Woods Robbins and his wife Clara Jeanette Federhof. His father was a schoolteacher and administrator and his mother was a journalist. The family moved to Muncy, Pennsylvania, when Robbins was two. After graduating from high school in 1906, he enrolled at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he took classes in a broad range of subjects, including Greek, Latin, physics, mathematics, and botany. He graduated in 1910 and subsequently taught at Lehigh and at the Mining and Mechanical Institute at Freeland, Pennsylvania. In 1911 he entered Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He intended to focus his studies on plant pathology and scientific farming; however, he eventually changed his concentration to plant physiology, studying under Lewis Knudsen (1884-1958), Benjamin M. Duggar (1872-1956, APS 1921) and Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954, APS 1896). From 1912 to 1916, he taught at Cornell and spent the summers as Duggar’s assistant at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. He earned a doctorate in 1915. That year he married Christine Faye Chapman, a botanist who later became a scientific biographer. The couple had three sons; one of them, Frederick C. Robbins (1916-2003, APS 1972) won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1954.
In 1916 Robbins became professor and chairman of the Department of Botany and plant physiologist in the Agricultural Experiment Station at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in Auburn. His research there focused on the effect of growth factors on cultivation of excised plant roots. However, in 1917 he temporarily suspended his research when he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, to manage the hardware store owned by his ailing father-in-law. The following year he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He completed training in bacteriology at Yale's Army Laboratory School and subsequently served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Sanitary Corps. The war ended before he was deployed abroad.
In 1919, after a brief stint as a soil biochemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., Robbins became professor and chairman in the Department of Botany at the University of Missouri. He resumed his research on the cultivation of excised roots and, more specifically, on the propagation of virus-free plants in large quantities, work that was critical for the developing field of tissue culture. Robbins was able to show that vitamins are essential for the growth of fungi and a variety of agricultural crops, including peas, corn, and cotton. He also studied the impact of factors such as light and temperature on a variety of plants. During this period he coauthored with his colleague, the botanist Harold William Rickett (1896- ?) three editions of General Botany, a widely used botany textbook. In 1930 Robbins became the dean of the graduate school at the University of Missouri; from 1933 to 1934 he also served as acting president of the university. In this capacity he was instrumental in securing support from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for the construction of a new library, classroom buildings, and a small research facility. In 1936 he succeeded in persuading Barbara McClintock (1902-1992, APS 1946) to come to the University of Missouri; she eventually stayed for six years.
Robbins’ most important influence was in the organization and administration of scientific research. In 1928 Robbins took a two-year leave from the university to join the European Office of the Rockefeller Foundation. From 1928 to 1930, he traveled throughout Europe to interview candidates for research grants and postdoctoral fellowships sponsored by the Foundation. Furthermore, from 1931 to 1937, he served as chairman of the National Research Council (NRC) Fellowship Board in the Biological Sciences, which administered these postdoctoral awards. In 1937 Robbins became the director of the New York Botanical Garden, a position he occupied for the next twenty years. In addition he served as professor of botany at Columbia University. As a plant and fungal physiologist, he was the botanical garden's first director from outside the field of systematic botany. Soon after assuming the position, he set out to revitalize the garden's staff by encouraging retirements and hiring new botanists, using scientific production as the only yardstick. In addition, he developed training courses for professional gardeners, who were urgently needed to work in the gardens in the area. He also encouraged the investigation of South American flora and promoted horticulture through flower shows and displays. Furthermore, he revived the Women’s Advisory Council and persuaded the Garden’s Board to elect women to its ranks.
Robbins also trained WPA workers to assist in the preparation of herbarium specimens and in the six laboratories he developed for studies of plant physiology, mycology, virology, and plant biochemistry. The workers also reconstructed more than a dozen display houses that had fallen in disrepair, built bridges, fences and other structures, and completed extensive repairs on the Museum Building. Moreover, Robbins cultivated friendly relationships with many individuals, whose support was essential for the success of his programs, including Parks Department Commissioner Robert Moses. Robbins was an effective fundraiser who secured funds not just for the Garden but also for the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., on whose advisory council he served.
Even when much of his time was occupied with administrative duties Robbins spent at least one hour a day in his laboratory. In the early 1930s he used a small quantity of thiamine to demonstrate that it served as a substitute for yeast extract in permitting unlimited growth of excised tomato roots. During World War II, his research group screened Basidiomycetes for antibiotics. They ultimately isolated more than a dozen new antibiotic substances, which they reported in forty-four papers. After World War II, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis funded his research to screen actinomycetes for antiviral activity. Robbins and his team also searched for sources of vitamin B12 in nature. They eventually found major sources in bacteria, actinomycetes and blue-green algae. In 1950 Robbins received a substantial grant to build a separate research lab. The lab, later called Charles B. Harding Laboratory, opened in 1956. During this period Robbins also taught botany classes at Columbia University and developed a program whereby graduate students at Columbia and Fordham Universities could receive degrees for work at the Garden.
In addition to his work at the Garden and with the National Arboretum, Robbins was director of the Torrey Botanical Society (1943), and he was active in developing the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Montgomery, Florida, serving on its board of trustees (1948-1962) and as its president (1962-1969). He was particularly influential in strengthening the Fairchild Garden’s scientific research program, including, for example, the study of tropical botany and horticulture. He hosted a National Academy of Sciences Conference on Tropical Botany at the Fairchild Garden in May 1960. In 1967 the Fairchild Garden honored Robbins by naming its plant science building with herbarium, reference library, and laboratories after him.
In 1940 Robbins was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), where he was chairman of the botany section (1944-1947) and treasurer (1948-1960). He served as a member of the executive board of the National Research Council between 1941 and 1960. His recommendation that at least twenty-five percent of funding be reserved to support education at less well-known schools was defeated; almost all of the federal money went to elite universities instead. Robbins also served on a scientific advisory commission to evaluate and give advice on the development of scientific research and to reestablish contact with Japanese scientists after the war.
After his retirement from the New York Botanical Garden in 1957 due to poor health, Robbins started a lab at Rockefeller University. There he focused on the study of physiological and morphological differences between the juvenile and the adult stages of Hedera helix . By studying the growth rate of calluses in adult and juvenile plants, he was able to show that juvenile callus always grows faster. In 1965 the American Philosophical Society awarded him its Lewis Prize for his essay on topophysis.
Robbins was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1941, serving as its president from 1956 to 1959 and executive officer in 1960 when the Society’s library building was completed. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the New York Academy of Sciences. He was a member and director of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research for almost three decades, serving as a member of its executive committee for twenty-four years. He was also a trustee of Rockefeller University (1956-1965). Despite increasingly serious health problems that eventually included heart disease and hearing loss, Robbins continued to work in his lab until the day before he suffered a massive stroke in October 1978. He died several days later in New York City.
From the guide to the William Jacob Robbins papers, 1896-1974, 1896-1974, (American Philosophical Society)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|New York (State)|
|New York (State)|
|World War, 1914-1918|