September 24, 1916–November 6, 2005
BY DAVID PATTERSON
THEODORE PUCK WAS ONE OF THOSE rare scientists who essentially created a new discipline, somatic cell genetics. His work made possible much of modern mammalian cell molecular genetics. He devised the first practical method to accomplish single-cell plating of mammalian cells with a high (indistinguishable from 100 percent in some cases) plating efficiency (1955). What is not so widely recognized are his contributions to the more technical aspects of this discipline; for example, he and his colleagues designed and built the first really practical CO2 incubators for growing mammalian cells as individual colonies (1962,2). The incubators we all currently use, although technologically much different from Ted’s original design, are based on the principles that he established.
Ted’s lab was still building incubators when I arrived in 1971, and in my experience these incubators worked better than anything available to this day. He recognized early on the importance of devising well-defined, and hopefully completely defined, growth media for mammalian cells. He was certainly not the first to come to this realization, but he and his colleagues, especially Richard Ham and Gordon Sato, were among the most successful (Ham 1965; Barnes and Sato, 1980). One result of these studies was Ham’s F10