University of California, Berkeley. Department of Genetics Collection

Mss.378.794.C12gen

Date: 1911-1947 | Size: 0.5 Linear feet

Abstract

In 1912, the University of California, Berkeley, became the first university in the nation to form a separate Department of Genetics. The first two appointments in the department went to plant geneticists Ernest Brown Babcock and Roy E. Clausen, and as the department grew slowly, shifting slightly away from its roots in agricultural science, it gained a strong reputation as an important center for research in several areas in genetics and evolutionary biology.

The U.C. Berkeley Department of Genetics Collection contains a selective sampling of correspondence relating to the organization and early history of the nation's first Department of Genetics. Centered in the years 1912-1930, the collection consists primarily of correspondence to and from Babcock and Clausen, pertaining to their research, administrative matters, and the genetical community. Prominent among their correspondents are George H. Shull, Thomas Hunt Morgan, A. H. Sturtevant, and H. J. Muller.

Background note

In the early days of Mendelian genetics, the University of California, Berkeley, became the first university in the nation to establish a separate Department of Genetics. Ernest B. Babcock, an assistant professor of agricultural education who had pioneered a course in plant and animal breeding in 1912, was selected to head the new department in July 1913, and after receiving his PhD in May 1914, Roy E. Clausen was appointed as his assistant.

Initially, the thrust of research in the department centered on Babcock's interest in plant breeding and the evolution of the genus Crepis and Clausen's in the genus Nicotiana, however by the 1920s, members of the department were involved in research on biosystematics, the genetics of Drosophila, cytogenetics, and radiation genetics. Babcock and Clausen co-authored a volume Genetics in Relation to Agriculture (1918, 2nd ed. 1927). Both Babcock and Clausen were elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Five of the 11 faculty members of the department were elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and four were chosen Faculty Research Lecturers. The department was eventually absorbed into the Department of Integrative Biology.

Scope and content

The U.C. Berkeley Department of Genetics Collection contains a selective sampling of correspondence relating to the organization, early history, and research of the nation's first Department of Genetics. Centered in the years 1912-1930, the collection consists primarily of correspondence to and from the founding members of the department, Ernest Brown Babcock and Roy E. Clausen, pertaining to their research interests, administrative matters, and the genetical community. Prominent among their correspondents are George H. Shull, Thomas Hunt Morgan, A. H. Sturtevant, and H. J. Muller.

Babcock appears to have had a particularly close relationship with George H. Shull, and their correspondence forms by far the most extensive part of the collection. Although Babcock was unsucessful in his attempt to win an appointment for Shull at Berkeley, the two maintained a close scientific correspondence, discussing their work in plant breeding, cytogenetics, and the relative status of botanical and animal genetics. In November 1944, Shull sent a lengthy autobiographical letter to Babcock, who was then considering writing a history of genetics.

Centered largely on Drosophila, the correspondence from Morgan, Muller, and Sturtevant is somewhat less extensive, but nevertheless interesting for reconstructing aspects of that research as well as the relations between the department at Berkeley and the groups at Columbia and later Cal Tech. In 1926, Morgan was one of those who intervened with Babcock to secure a position for John Belling, recovering from a bout of "acute melancholia."

Among the interesting miscellaneous items is a letter from the Australian geneticist, W. E. Agar (regarding the largely negative influence of his former advisor, William Bateson), an outline and course notes from Babcock's course in genetics, 1915, and William E. Castle's autobiographical "Memorandum on the beginning of Genetic Studies at Harvard University, 1901-1915." Also of note is a letter from Babcock to A. Franklin Shull, Feb. 6, 1934, in which Babcock makes the prescient suggestion that they organize a symposium to investigate "whether anything can be done in the way of interpreting the paleontological processes in terms of modern genetical concepts," and to discuss the integration of genetics and evolutionary processes in plants and animals.

The collection is organized alphabetically by writer, and then alphabetically by correspondent.

Collection Information

Provenance

Gift of the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Genetics, March 1967.

Preferred citation

Cite as: University of California, Berkeley. Department of Genetics Collection, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Recatalogued by rsc, April 2003.

Alternate formats available

The Collection has been microfilmed (Film 1441).

Other finding aids

The U.C. Berkeley Department of Genetics Collection is also described in Bentley Glass's A Guide to the Genetics Collections of the APS.

Related material

Babcock appears as a correspondent in the papers of Milislav Demerec (B D394) and Albert Blakeslee (B B585).

The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, houses an additional 2 feet of papers of Ernest Brown Babcock.

Bibliography

Babcock, Ernest Brown and Roy Elwood Clausen, Genetics in Relation to Agriculture (N.Y., 1918). Call no.: 575.13 B11g.

Babcock, Ernest Brown and J. L. Collins, Genetics Laboratory Manual (N.Y., 1918). Call no.: 575.1 B11s.

Genetics Note

AuthorFormatDate
Agar, Wilfred EadeCorrespondence (1 item)1947
Babcock, Ernest BrownCorrespondence (53 items)1906-1948
Babcock, Ernest Brown -- Genetics I - lecture notes, course outlineManuscripts (2 items)1914-1915
Castle, William Ernest -- Memorandum on the beginning of Genetic Studies at Harvard University, 1901-1915Manuscripts (8 pages)Circa 1915
Clausen, Roy ElwoodCorrespondence (6 items)1919-1936
Morgan, Thomas HuntCorrespondence (40 items)1917-1932
Muller, Hermann JosephCorrespondence (13 items)1920-1942
Shull, George HarrisonCorrespondence (38 items)1911-1944
Sturtevant, Alfred HenryCorrespondence (7 items)1921-1934

Indexing Terms


Corporate Name(s)

  • Harvard University. Department of Genetics
  • International Congress of Genetics(7th: 1937 : Moscow)

Personal Name(s)

  • Agar, W. E. (Wilfred Eade), 1882-1951
  • Bateson, William, 1861-1926
  • Castle, William E. (William Ernest), 1867-1962
  • Clausen, Roy Elwood, 1891-1956
  • Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945
  • Muller, H. J. (Hermann Joseph), 1890-1967
  • Navashin, Mikhail S.
  • Shull, A. Franklin (Aaron Franklin)
  • Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954
  • Sturtevant, A. H. (Alfred Henry), 1891-1970
  • Voorhies, E. C.

Subject(s)

  • Drosophila -- Genetics
  • Genetics
  • Plant breeding
  • Plant genetics
  • Radiogenetics


Detailed Inventory

Correspondence
1911-1947 box 1
Agar, W. E. (Wilfred Eade), 1882-1951.
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock, on "Bateson's influence"
19471 item

Subject(s): Biographical and personal data; History of biology, especially genetics; Graduate study; Bateson, William N.; University of California, Berkeley

Babcock, Ernest Brown
1906-194853 items

Subject(s): Teaching; Lectures, public speaking; Publication; Muller, Hermann Joseph; University of California, Berkeley; Cytogenetics; Genetics; Genetics of plants; History of biology, especially genetics; Evolution; Shull, George Harrison; Conferences and symposia; Recommendations -- Clausen, Roy Elwood; Johannsen, Wilhelm; Bibliographical matters; Travel -- Invitations, arrangements; Morgan, Thomas Hunt

Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Bibliography
1906-19451 item
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Diary of European travel
19191 item
Genetics I
1914-19152 folders

Subject(s): Genetics; Teaching; Unpublished manuscripts, notes, etc.; University of California, Berkeley

Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Genetics I (course outline)
1914-19151 item
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Genetics I (lecture notes)
1914-19151 item
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to C. Leonard Huskins
19481 item
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to E. D. Merrill
19282 items
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to Thomas Hunt Morgan
1917-192611 items
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to H. J. Muller
1920-19366 items
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to Mikhail S. Navashin
19271 item
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to A. Franklin Shull
19342 items
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to George H. Shull
1911-194224 items
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to U.S. Secretary of State
19271 item

Re: Mikhail Navashin's visa.

Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Letter to E. C. Voorhies
19232 items
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
Translation of W. Johannsen, Elemente des Exakten Erblichkeitslehre
n.d.1 item
Bateson, William, 1861-1926.
Letter to Thomas Hunt Morgan
19201 items
Castle, William E. (William Ernest), 1867-1962.
Memorandum on the beginning of genetic studies at Harvard, 1901-1915
Circa 19158 pages

Subject(s): Rat genetics; Rabbit genetics; Mendel, Gregor; Drosophila genetics; Bibliographical matters; Educational matters; Genetics; Harvard University

Clausen, Roy Elwood
1919-19366 items

Subject(s): Genetics; University of California, Berkeley; Drosophila genetics; Graduate study; Educational matters -- Research programs; Sturtevant, Alfred Henry; Muller, Hermann Joseph; Morgan, Thomas Hunt; Babcock, Ernest Brown; Genetics of plants

Clausen, Roy Elwood, 1891-1956.
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
n.d.1 item
Clausen, Roy Elwood, 1891-1956.
Letter to C. B. Lipman
19411 item (with encl.)
Clausen, Roy Elwood, 1891-1956.
Letter to Thomas Hunt Morgan
1919, 19272 items
Clausen, Roy Elwood, 1891-1956.
Letter to H. J. Muller
19361 item
Clausen, Roy Elwood, 1891-1956.
Letter to A. H. Sturtevant
19321 item
Griffiths, F. T..
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19112 items
Huskins, C. L..
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19481 item
Hutchinson, C. B..
Letter to E. C. Voorhies
19231 item
Levit, S. G..
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19361 item
Miyabe, Knigo.
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
1948-19492 items
Morgan, Thomas Hunt
1917-193240 items

Subject(s): Goldschmidt, Richard Benedict; Publication; Babcock, Ernest Brown; Recommendations -- Belling, John; Drosophila genetics; University of California, Berkeley

Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Corrections...
n.d.1 item
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1917-192724 items
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letters to Roy E. Clausen
1919-19327 items
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letters to J. L. Collins
19183 items
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letter to Cullen
19181 item
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letter to Ginn and Co.
19171 item
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letter to Dr. Haring
19211 item
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letter to McGraw Hill Book Co.
19261 items
Morgan, Thomas Hunt, 1866-1945.
Letter to Merriam
19171 item
Muller, Hermann Joseph
1920-194213 items

Subject(s): International Congress of Genetics -- Seventh Congress; Recommendations -- Redfield, Helen; Clausen, Roy Elwood; Babcock, Ernest Brown; Drosophila genetics; University of California, Berkeley

Muller, H. J. (Hermann Joseph), 1890-1967.
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1920-19429 items
Muller, H. J. (Hermann Joseph), 1890-1967.
Letters to Roy E. Clausen
1923-19364 items
Muralov, A. and N. I. Vavilov.
Letter to Roy E. Clausen
19371 item
Navashin, Mikhail S..
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1927-19295 items
Sharp, Lester W. (Lester Whyland).
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19261 item
Shull, A. Franklin (Aaron Franklin).
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19341 items
Shull, George Harrison
1911-194438 items

Subject(s): Babcock, Ernest Brown; History of biology, especially genetics; Biographical and personal data; Cytogenetics; Genetics of plants; University of California, Berkeley; Lectures, public speaking; Johannsen, Wilhelm

Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1911-19443 folders
Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1911-191310 itemsfolder 1
Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1914-191813 itemsfolder 2
Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1922-19449 itemsfolder 3
Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letters to Roy E. Clausen
19224 items
Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letter to J. L. Collins
19231 item
Shull, George Harrison, 1874-1954.
Letter to John M. Coulter
19111 item
Sturtevant, Alfred Henry
1921-19347 items

Subject(s): Publication -- Genetics; Conferences and symposia -- Eugenics; Shull, George Harrison; Drosophila genetics; University of California, Berkeley

Sturtevant, Alfred H..
Letters to Ernest Brown Babcock
1930-19312 items
Sturtevant, Alfred H..
Letters to Roy E. Clausen
1921-19313 items
Sturtevant, Alfred H..
Letter to J. L. Collins
19271 item
Sturtevant, Alfred H..
Letter to D. F. Jones
19341 item
Voorhies, E. C..
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19231 item
Wheeler, Benjamin I. (Benjamin Ide), 1854-1927.
Letter to Ernest Brown Babcock
19181 item
Printed material
1917-1945 
1822-1922. The Galton and Mendel Memorial Fund...
ca.1922Broadside
Dedication of Hilgard Hall
1917Program
Five Lectures on the Hitchcock Foundation [Thomas Hunt Morgan Lectures, April 1916]
1916Broadside
"Genetics"
n.d.Galley proof
Babcock, E. B. (Ernest Brown), 1877-1954.
How I Became a Geneticist, California Monthly
June-July 1945 
McGraw-Hill [Advertisement for Babcock's Genetics in Relation to Agriculture]
1917Broadside, 2 items