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H MS c370

Beckwith, Jonathan R. Papers, 1933-2011 (inclusive), 1965-2004 (bulk): Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

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Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


The Jonathan R. Beckwith papers were processed as a part of the Center's Access to Activism project, with funding from a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Library.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c370
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Title: Jonathan R. Beckwith papers,
Date(s): 1933-2011 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1965-2004 (bulk).
Quantity: 1 collection (30.78 cubic feet (31 records center cartons, 1 half letter size document box, 2 oversize boxes, and 1 oversize flat file drawer) and 1.002 GB of electronic records (2 3.5 inch floppy disks and 1 zip disk).)
Language of materials: Papers are predominantly in English. Occasional papers are in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Abstract: The Jonathan R. Beckwith papers, 1933-2011 (inclusive), 1965-2004 (bulk), are the product of Beckwith's professional, research, teaching, and publishing activities throughout the course of his career. The papers are arranged in six series: I. Harvard Medical School Appointments Files, 1969-2007, undated; II. Research Records, 1960-2009, undated; III. Professional Activities Files, 1965-2007, undated; IV. Colleague and Postdoctoral Fellow Alphabetical Files, 1960-2002, undated; V. Writings and Publications, 1933-2011, undated; and VI. Resource Files, 1961-2010, undated.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Jonathan R. Beckwith gifted his papers to the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine in 2011 and 2012.
  • Accession number 2012-018. Jonathan R. Beckwith. 2011 August 18.
  • Accession number 2012-070. Jonathan R. Beckwith.2012 February 20.
  • Processing Information:

    Processed by Amber LaFountain, 2015 March.
    Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access. Items were rehoused and, where necessary, photocopied to acid-free paper. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals when available; titles supplied by the processing staff appear in brackets only on the physical folders. Processing staff discarded duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine. All electronic media (as found in Series V) were imaged using Access Data's FTK and a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. Records were then transferred to secure storage. Files that could be opened were sampled for content, however, researchers should be aware that not every file in the collection could be opened and assessed. Files for which specific software was needed, but not available to staff at the time of processing, were not reviewed. Regardless of copy status, all original media have been retained.
    Abbreviations and acronyms in titles have been written in their full forms when available in brackets after the abbreviation or acronym. When the abbreviation or acronym appears in a consecutive list of folder titles, the full form has been written out only in the first title. Partial names have also been written in their full forms when available in brackets after the partial name.

    Conditions Governing Access:

    Access requires advance notice. Access to Harvard University records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I, II, III, and IV. Access to personal, student, and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.
    Access to electronic records in this collection (as found in Series V) is also subject to the above restrictions. Additionally, access is premised on the availability of a computer station, requisite software, and/or the ability of Public Services staff to review and/or print out records of interest in advance of an on-site visit.
    The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services for more information concerning retrieval of material.

    Conditions Governing Use:

    The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

    Preferred Citation:

    Jonathan R. Beckwith papers, 1933-2011 (inclusive), 1965-2004 (bulk). H MS c370. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

    Related Papers in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

    Biographical Notes

    Jonathan R. Beckwith (born 1935), A.B., Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the American Cancer Society Research Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School. He is a microbiologist and geneticist who has focused throughout his career on bacterial genetics, including gene expression, membrane proteins, protein secretion, disulfide bonds, and cell division. With James Shapiro (born 1943) and Lawrence J. Eron (born 1944), he is credited with isolating the first gene from a bacterial chromosome in 1969. He is also known for his social activism in the science community, advocating for social responsibility in scientific and genetic research, and arguing against genetic, racial, and gender discrimination in science and society.
    Jonathan R. Beckwith was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 25, 1935 to Manuel Beckwith (born circa 1911) and Sylvia M. Beckwith (born circa 1912). He received his A.B. in Chemistry and his Ph.D. in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University in 1957 and 1961, respectively. He held several postdoctoral fellowships between 1961 and 1965: serving under Arthur Pardee at the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; serving under William Hayes and Sidney Brenner at the MRC Microbial Genetic Research Unit, Cambridge, England; and finally serving under Francois Jacob at Institut Pasteur, Paris, France. In 1965 he moved back to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was named an Associate in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at Harvard Medical School, where he remained throughout his career. He held various appointments throughout his tenure at Harvard Medical School, including: Assistant Professor (1966-1968), Associate Professor (1968-1969), and Professor (1969-1980) in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology; and Professor (1969-1980) in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. In 1980 he was named American Cancer Society Research Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and has held the position throughout his tenure at Harvard Medical School.
    During the period of Beckwith's tenure at Harvard Medical School, he has served on various campus and departmental committees, including as: Chair of the Task Force on Employment and Paramedical Education of the Commission on Relations with the Black Community (circa 1966-1970); Faculty Sponsor of Harvard University's Campus Tenant's Support Union (circa 1969-1975); Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (1971-1973), and as a member of the Harvard Medical School Faculty Council (1999-2002). Between 1973 and 1975, he also led an opposition movement against Stanley Walzer's (died 2014) Harvard-based genetic screening study, which proposed a link between an extra Y chromosome in male newborn infants with future criminality. Beckwith has also held various travel fellowships, visiting professorships, and consulting positions throughout his career, including as: Guggenheim Fellow at Instituto Internazionale di Genetica e Biofisica, Naples, Italy (1970), where he studied genetic repression using RNA polymerase; Member of the Scientific Advisory Board, New England BioLabs, Beverly, Massachusetts (1981-1991); Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley (1985); Samuel Rudin Visiting Professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City (1991); and Consultant to the Genentech Corporation (1994-1998).
    Beckwith is most known for his work in microbiology and bacterial genetics, focusing on gene expression, protein secretion, membrane protein structure and function, the formation of disulfide bonds, cell division, and the Lac operon. With James Shapiro and Lawrence J. Eron, he is credited with isolating the first gene from a bacterial chromosome in 1969. Since perceiving the potential social implications of that work, he has been an advocate for social responsibility in science and genetics. Toward these ends, he has spoken and published on topics such as sociobiology, genetic screening, genetic discrimination, human behavior, criminality, intelligence, gender roles, and race. He has served as: President of the Board of Directors for Science for the People; a member of various Science for the People committees, including the Genetic Screening Study Group, the Science Teaching Group, and the Sociobiology Study Group; and a member of the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy Joint Working Group on Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of the Human Genome Project. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, among numerous other professional affiliations. In 2011, Beckwith was awarded the American Society for Microbiology Graduate Microbiology Teaching Award. His further awards and honors include: the Eli Lilly Award for Outstanding Achievements in Microbiology (1970); the Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health (1986); the Genetics Society of America Medal (1993); the Abbott Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society for Microbiology (2005); Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of Sciences; and the Edinburgh Medal for professional achievements that have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity (2009), among numerous other honors. He has published over 300 scientific articles, over 100 publications related to the social implications of science, and several books, including: The Power of Bacterial Genetics: A Literature-Based Course (1992), with Thomas J. Silhavy; The Double-Edged Helix: Social Implications of Genetics in a Diverse Society (2002), with Joseph S. Alper (born 1946), Catherine Ard, Adrienne Asch (died 2013), Peter Conrad, and Lisa N. Geller; and his memoir, Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in Science (2002).
    Jonathan R. Beckwith married Barbara Shutt (born 1937) on December 26, 1960. They have two children, Benjamin Hunter Beckwith (born 1961) and Anthony Rhys Beckwith (born 1964).

    Resources about Jonathan R. Beckwith.

    Arrangement

    Please note: where possible, some folders containing a combination of restricted and unrestricted records have been separated into two folders to better promote access. Records containing restricted information have been placed in a separate folder (B), and their original locations have been marked with placeholders in the main folder (A). Similarly where necessary, folders containing a combination of standard-size and oversize items have been separated into two folders. Oversize items have been placed in a separate folder (B), and their original locations have been marked in the main folder (A). In such cases where one folder was previously maintained within a larger folder, the smaller folder was placed immediately after the larger folder, and was given a title using the following format: Larger Folder Title: Smaller Folder Title.

    Series and Subseries in the Collection

    Scope and Content

    The Jonathan R. Beckwith papers, 1933-2011 (inclusive), 1965-2004 (bulk), are the product of Beckwith's professional, research, teaching, and publishing activities throughout the course of his career. The papers are arranged in six series: I. Harvard Medical School Appointments Files, 1969-2007, undated; II. Research Records, 1960-2009, undated; III. Professional Activities Files, 1965-2007, undated; IV. Colleague and Postdoctoral Fellow Alphabetical Files, 1960-2002, undated; V. Writings and Publications, 1933-2011, undated; and VI. Resource Files, 1961-2010, undated.
    Harvard Medical School Appointments Files consist of: teaching administrative records, student records, lectures, readings, and visual teaching aids for courses taught by Jonathan R. Beckwith in microbiology, bacteriology, genetics, and the social aspects of science; and meeting minutes, reports, writings, correspondence, and collected resources for various campus committees and activist movements related to school administration, equal opportunity employment and education, community relations, and genetic screening research. Research records (Series II) includes: grant applications, research proposals, budgets, and progress reports for research projects conducted by Beckwith and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School; and laboratory notebooks and research data generated and maintained by Beckwith throughout his postdoctoral fellowships and during his research at Harvard Medical School. Research frequently concerns genetic regulation, the Lac operon, disulfide bonds, membrane proteins, protein secretion, cell division, mutants, recombinant DNA, and other areas of bacterial genetics and microbiology. Professional Activities Files (Series III) contains: lectures, conference programs, and related records for Beckwith's public speaking activities; and administrative records, reports, membership rosters, collected resources, and correspondence related to his service in various professional organizations, including Science for the People and the NIH-DOE Working Group on Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of the Human Genome Project. Papers also contain: personnel records, research records, collected publications, and correspondence related to Beckwith's colleagues and postdoctoral fellows (Series IV); publication correspondence, manuscript drafts, scientific paper reprints, and newspaper clippings for his writings and publications related to various topics in microbiology, bacterial genetics, and the social and ethical aspects of science and genetics (Series V); and collected scientific paper reprints, newspaper clippings, and bibliographies related to his research and social activism interests (Series VI).
    The papers contain a number of access restriction types, to protect personal and institutional privacy. These types include: 80-year restrictions from the date of record creation for personnel records, student records, patient records, and density of personally-identifying information; and 50-year restrictions from the date of record creation for Harvard University institutional records.
    Papers are predominantly in English. Occasional correspondence, visual teaching aids, and collected publications are in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

    Container List

    Additional Index Terms

    Alkaline phosphatase.
    Bacteriology.
    Cell division.
    Criminal behavior.
    Discrimination.
    Eugenics.
    Gender.
    Gene expression.
    Gene fusion.
    Gene mapping.
    Genetic engineering.
    Genetic regulation.
    Genetic screening.
    Genetics.
    Human Genome Project -- Ethics.
    Human Genome Project -- Social aspects.
    Intelligence.
    Lac operon.
    Membrane proteins.
    Microbiology.
    Mutation (Biology).
    Psychology.
    Race.
    Recombinant DNA.
    Science -- Study and teaching.
    Science, ethics & society.
    Sociobiology.
    Twins.
    Alkaline Phosphatase
    Bacteriology
    Behavior
    Cell Division
    Chromosome Mapping
    Continental Population Groups
    Criminals
    DNA, Recombinant
    Eugenics
    Gene Expression
    Gene Fusion
    Genetic engineering
    Genetic Testing
    Genetics
    Genetics, Microbial
    Human Genome Project -- ethics
    Intelligence
    Lac Operon
    Membrane Proteins
    Microbiology
    Mutation
    Science -- education
    Science -- ethics
    Sex
    Social Discrimination
    Sociobiology
    Twins
    XYY Karyotype
    Floppy disks.
    Negatives (photographic).
    Photographs.
    Slides (photographs).
    Geneticists.
    Microbiologists.
    Beckwith, Jonathan R.
    Harvard Medical School. Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
    NIH-DOE Working Group on Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Human Genome Research.
    Science for the People.
    Science for the People. Genetic Screening Study Group.
    Science for the People. Science Teaching Group.
    Science for the People. Sociobiology Study Group.

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