Max Delbruck Biographical File

Summary Information

Delbruck, Max (1906-1981)
VUMC Historical Images and Biographies
Max Delbruck Biographical File
Date [inclusive]
1957 - 1995
0.1 Cubic feet
Biographical file includes presentation notes, academic journal articles, obituary, bibliography, magazine articles, event program, and other biographical information.

Preferred Citation

Delbruck, Max (1906-1981). Eskind Biomedical Library Special Collections, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

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Historical or Biographical Note

Max Delbruck was born in Berlin in 1906. He studied physics in Gottinger, from 1926 to 1929, at the time of the excitement generated by the development of quantum mechanics. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1930, Delbruck went to Copenhagen as a post-doctoral fellow in Niels Bohr's laboratory. In 1932 he became assistant to Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin.

Max Delbruck came to the United States in 1937 and joined the Vanderbilt Department of Physics in 1940. Dr. Delbruck was at Vanderbilt seven years, based in the Department of Physics and doing his research in the Department of Biology. He was a scientist with an unusual combination of skills in mathematical physics and an interest in applying his knowledge to the borderland between biology and physics. From the mid- 1930s to the mid-1950s he provided the ideological and spiritual fountainhead for the discipline that would eventually call itself molecular biology.

In 1940 Delbruck met Salvadore Luria an Italian refugee working at Indiana University, with whom he began a productive collaboration on bacteriophages. Their paper Mutations of Bacteria from Virus Sensitivity to Virus Resistance (1943) is generally acknowledged to signal the birth of microbial genetics. Delbruck and Luria were later joined by Hershey, and jointly they received the Nobel prize in 1969.

In 1947 Dr. Delbruck approached the Graduate Dean at Vanderbilt with a request to set up a molecular biology department. He requested an amount greater than the total budget of Vanderbilt's Natural Science Division, and the request could not be funded. He then went to California Institute of Technology, the institution with which most molecular biologists associate his name. Max Delbruck died in 1981.

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Administrative Information

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Subject Headings

Other Keywords - Digital Library Subjects

  • Biology
  • Genetics/Developmental Biology
  • Molecular/Cellular Biology
  • Science
  • VUMC History

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