HERMANN JOSEPH MULLER

December 20, 1890–April 7, 1967


BY ELOF AXEL CARLSON


HERMANN JOSEPH MULLER is best known as the founder of the field of radiation genetics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1946. He was also a cofounder—with Thomas Hunt Morgan, Calvin Blackman Bridges, and Alfred Henry Sturtevant—of the American school of classical genetics, whose use of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, provided a remarkable series of discoveries leading to an American domination of the new field of genetics first named in 1906 by William Bateson.1 Muller’s career as a geneticist was productive and included 370 publications and participation in active laboratories in Texas (the Rice Institute and later the University of Texas at Austin), the Soviet Union (at their National Academy of Sciences in Moscow and Leningrad, Muller being a corresponding member), Edinburgh (the Institute for Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh), and Bloomington, Indiana (in the Zoology Department at Indiana University).2

Muller was a controversial critic of society who made an effort to decry abuses of genetics and who served on many national and international committees as an advocate for radiation safety. He was both a critic and advocate of eugenics, denouncing the American eugenics movement for its racism, spurious elitism, sexism, and mistaken assumptions



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