Jackson Laboratory Bar Harbor, Me

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In 1929, the geneticist C. C. Little founded the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine (now the Jackson Laboratory), a major center for the study of mammalian genetics, cancer, and related areas in basic biomedical research.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, Little took an interest in studying the inheritance of coat coloration of mice, and in 1909 developed the first inbred strain of mice for use in genetic and biomedical experimentation. Continuing as a graduate student under William E. Castle, Little received his doctorate in 1914 for research on the inheritance of susceptibility and resistance to tumor transplants in mice, and began a distinguished career that led him to the presidencies of both the University of Maine and University of Michigan before his fortieth birthday. Despite his administrative duties, he remained active in research, and when he left Michigan in 1929 over political disputes with the Regents, he was soon able to secure funding to establish the Jackson Laboratories as an institution for "research in cancer and the effects of radiation."

The misfortune of opening a research center only months before the stock market crash of 1929 resulted in several years of financial hardship for the Laboratory. Yet ever charismatic and opportunistic, in 1933 Little lit upon the idea of generating income for the laboratory by selling excess stocks of inbred mice to other researchers, and two million mice and 2,500 varieties later, the Jackson remains a center for supplying genetically pure mice for research purposes.

Despite the hardships of the Depression, Little lured an impressive staff to the coast of Maine, including George D. Snell (who later won a Nobel prize for his discovery of the major histocompatibility complex), Elizabeth "Tibby" Russell, and George Woolley, and he enthusiastically encouraged a broad range of research on a number of mammalian taxa, including the introduction of behavior genetic research at Hamilton Station. During the Second World War, the Laboratory provided thousands of mice for use in investigating the effects of poison gases and for the production of encephalitis-B serum, but the relative prosperity it brought was curtailed when the laboratory and nearly all of the mouse stocks were destroyed by fire in 1947. Tibby Russell directed the efforts to rebuild the "inbred nucleus" of mouse stocks with the assistance of scientists who had purchased Jackson mice in the past, and the laboratory emerged from the episode as a stronger institution.

After 27 years as Director at the Laboratory, Little stepped aside in 1956 and was replaced by Earl Green. Very much a contrast to Little, Green brought a micro-managerial style to the position that chafed several of the scientists on staff, and he exerted his control in part by curtailing the breadth of research. Green showed little interest in exploiting new areas in genetic research, rejecting a move into biochemistry or immunology, and he attempted to shut down the successful program in behavior genetics at Hamilton Station. In short, Green's tenure brought an almost exclusive focus on mouse genetics combined with a steady deterioration of relations between the administration and the scientific and support staff.

Following Green's retirement in 1975, Richmond Prehn attempted to recraft the Laboratory into a broader center for research in the mold of Rockefeller University, downplaying mouse genetics and mouse production in favor of an emphasis on cancer research. However the alienation of the staff plagued Prehn's directorship as much as it had Green's. He added a now-major research program in molecular biology at great expense, and the financial strains placed on the laboratory combined with the tensions with the research staff led to his resignation in 1980. Subsequent directors have included Prehn's successor, Barbara H. Sanford, and Kenneth Paigen (1989-present). They currently (2003) conduct research in six major areas (bioinformatics, cancer, development and aging-related, immune system and blood disorders, metabolic diseases, and Neurological and Sensory Disorders), and are one of eight institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute as a cancer center.

From the guide to the Jackson Laboratory Oral History Collection, 1986, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Anthony, Ethel,. Oral history interviews, 1980. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Maine Folklife Center
creatorOf Jackson Laboratory Oral History Collection, 1986 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Marguerite Yourcenar additional papers, 1842-1996. Houghton Library
referencedIn Green, Earl Leroy. Papers 1937-1975. Raymond H. Fogler Library
referencedIn Dunn, L. C. (Leslie Clarence), 1893-1974. Reminiscences of Leslie Clarence Dunn : oral history, 1960. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Mehrtens, Susan E., 1945-,. Jackson Laboratory oral history collection, 1986. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Hand, Learned, 1872-1961. Papers, 1840-1961 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbott, Mary person
associatedWith Abbott, William person
associatedWith Abbott, William and Mary person
associatedWith Anthony, Ethel, person
associatedWith Bailey, Donald person
associatedWith Baltimore, David person
associatedWith Barker, Jane person
associatedWith Beck, John person
associatedWith Bennett, Dorothea person
associatedWith Bernstein, Seldon person
associatedWith Brilliant, Murray person
associatedWith Bunker, Helen person
associatedWith Bunker, Helen and Lester person
associatedWith Bunker, Lester person
associatedWith Champlin, Arthur Kingsley, 1938- person
associatedWith Clark, Frank person
associatedWith Coleman, Douglas person
associatedWith Compton, John person
associatedWith Crow, James F. (James Franklin), 1916- person
associatedWith DeLaitre, William person
associatedWith Dorey, John person
associatedWith Dunn, L. C. (Leslie Clarence), 1893-1974. person
associatedWith Duran-Reynals, Marie-Louise person
associatedWith Ebert, James person
associatedWith Fahey, Eunice person
associatedWith Foley, Dale person
associatedWith Fox, Richard person
associatedWith Fuller, John person
associatedWith Gilley, Reginald person
associatedWith Glass, Bentley, 1906-2005 person
associatedWith Green, Earl Leroy. person
associatedWith Green, Margaret person
associatedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
associatedWith Harrison, David person
associatedWith Hirschorn, Ann person
associatedWith Kandutsch, Andrew person
associatedWith Lane, Priscilla person
associatedWith Law, Lloyd person
associatedWith Lawson, Fay person
associatedWith Little, Ann person
associatedWith Little, Clarence C., (Clarence Cook), b. 1888 person
associatedWith Little, Richard person
associatedWith Little, Robert person
associatedWith Little, Robert and Ann person
associatedWith McFarland, Roy person
associatedWith McKusick, Victor A., (Victor Almon), 1921-2008 person
associatedWith Mehrtens, Susan person
associatedWith Mehrtens, Susan E., 1945-, person
associatedWith Neilson, Harry, Jr. person
associatedWith Petschek, Stephan person
associatedWith Prehn, Richmond person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Robbins, Watson person
associatedWith Roderick, Thomas person
associatedWith Russell, Elizabeth Shull, 1913- person
associatedWith Salisbury, Allen person
associatedWith Sanford, Barbara H. person
associatedWith Scott, John Paul person
associatedWith Silver, Willys person
associatedWith Snell, George D., (George Davis), 1903-1996 person
associatedWith Sprott, Richard person
associatedWith Staats, Joan person
associatedWith Stanwood, Robert person
associatedWith Stevens, Leroy person
associatedWith Waymouth, Charity person
associatedWith Winn, Henry person
correspondedWith Yourcenar, Marguerite. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Women in science
Women geneticists

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