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Oral history interview with Joshua Lederberg

  • 2000-Aug-18

Oral history interview with Joshua Lederberg

  • 2000-Aug-18

Joshua Lederberg begins the interview with a discussion of his involvement in the contamination issues of planetary exploration. As interest in space exploration gained momentum, Lederberg was in the midst of discussion regarding protecting the Earth from possible extraterrestrial contamination. Lederberg felt that more emphasis needed to be placed on building a sound space program, one that focused more on planetary research rather than sending humans into space. Lederberg worked to develop alternatives to the "man-in-space" program, focusing on the importance for international cooperation. Lederberg served on several national committees, including the Space Science Board and the Kennedy Health Transition Team. After receiving the Nobel Prize in 1958, Lederberg joined the faculty of Stanford University, where he continued his life-long research in the genetic structure and function in microorganisms. Lederberg continued to be actively involved in artificial intelligence research and in the NASA experimental programs seeking life on Mars. He has also been a consultant on health-related matters for both the U.S. and international communities, serving on the World Health Organization's Advisory Health Research Council. Lederberg wrote his own column on a wide variety of topics, both scientific and non-scientific. Lederberg concludes the interview with a discussion of the environment at Stanford University during the Cold War and thoughts on U.S. defense projects.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 30 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

Institutional location

Oral history number 0199

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 23, 1925
  • Montclair, New Jersey, United States
  • February 02, 2008
  • New York City, New York, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1944 Columbia University BA Biology
1947 Yale University PhD Microbiology

Professional Experience

United States. Navy

  • 1943 to 1945 V-12 and Hospital Corps: Ens. USNR

Columbia University

  • 1945 to 1946 Research Assistant, Zoology

Yale University

  • 1946 to 1947 Research Fellow, Jane Coffin Childs Fund for Medical Research

University of Wisconsin--Madison

  • 1947 to 1950 Assistant Professor of Genetics
  • 1950 to 1954 Associate Professor of Genetics
  • 1954 to 1959 Professor of Genetics
  • 1957 to 1959 Chair, Department of Medical Genetics

University of California, Berkeley

  • 1950 Visiting Professor of Bacteriology

University of Melbourne

  • 1957 Visiting Professor of Bacteriology

Stanford University. School of Medicine

  • 1959 to 1978 Professor of Genetics, Biology, and Computer Science
  • 1959 to 1978 Chairman, Department of Genetics

Rockefeller University

  • 1978 to 1990 President
  • 1990 to 2001 University Professor Emeritus


Year(s) Award
1957 National Academy of Sciences
1958 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine
1960 Sc. D. (honorary), Yale University
1961 Alexander Hamilton Award, Columbia University
1961 Wilbur Cross Medal, Yale University
1961 Proctor Medal, Sigma Xi
1967 Sc. D. (honorary), University of Wisconsin
1967 Sc. D. (honorary), Columbia University
1969 M.D. (honorary), University of Turin
1970 Sc. D. (honorary), Yeshiva University
1979 Litt. D (honorary) Jewish Theological Seminary
1979 Foreign Member, Royal Academy of Sciences
1979 LL. D. (honorary), University of Pennsylvania
1980 Honrary Life Member, New York Academy of Sciences
1981 Sc. D. (honorary), Rutgers University
1981 Honorary Fellow, New York Academy of Medicine
1982 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1982 Fellow, American Philosophical Society
1982 Fellow, American Academy of the Arts and Sciences
1984 Sc. D. (honorary), New York University
1985 M.D. (honorary), Tufts University
1988 Distinguished Service Medal, Columbia University
1989 National Medal of Science
1991 D.Phil. (honorary), Tel Aviv University
1993 Founding Member, Académie Universelle des Cultures
1995 Allen Newell Award, Association for Computing Machinery
1996 John Stearns Award for Lifetime Achievement, New York Academy of Medicine
1997 Mayor's Award in Science and Technology, City of New York
1997 Maxwell Finland Award, National Foundation of Infectious Diseases
1998 Dr. Mil. Med. (honorary), USUHS

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PDF — 201 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

3 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads