Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology

Anna Marie Skalka: Meet the Author

 Thursday, May 23, 2019
Library Event in the Szybalski Reading Room:

Anna Marie Skalka will discuss her book,
Discovering Retroviruses: Beacons in the Biosphere

Program: book discussion 5:30-6:30 pm,
book signing and reception 6:30-7:30 pm

Copies of Discovering Retroviruses are available for purchase at the CSHL Bookstore and at the event.

 Dr. Anna Marie Skalka is Professor Emerita and former Sr. VP for Basic Science and W.W. Smith Chair in Cancer Research at the Institute for Cancer Research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Dr. Skalka is internationally recognized for her research on viral oncogenesis, especially the mechanisms of retroviral replication and insertion.  Anna received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from NYU Medical School in 1964, and is an alumna of Cold Spring Harbor and a member of the Phage Group, conducting her postdoctoral work with Al Hershey until his retirement in 1968.

Dr. Skalka has published more than 240 papers and edited several books.  She is the author of Discovering Retroviruses: Beacons in the Biosphere and co-author of the widely acclaimed textbook Principles of Virology.

Dr. Skalka has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology; and has received the 2018 Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement and Communication, among other awards.

Discovering Retrovirusesskalka

 This lecture is now available on YouTube:



Gene Machine

 Library Event at Hershey East:Venki Flyer2MEET THE AUTHOR
Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel Laureate,
will discuss his book, Gene Machine: The Race to Discover the Secrets of the Ribosome
FRIDAY, MAY 10th, 2019  @ 3:00 PM

Gene Machine: The Race to Discover the Secrets of the Ribosome recounts Ramakrishnan's quest to solve the structure of the ribosome, and in the process, paints a clear picture of the actual process of scientific inquiry, including successes and failures, collaborators and competitors, insights and frustrations.

Venki currently serves as the President of the Royal Society and maintains a laboratory at the MRC's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. He shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Ada Yonath and the late Tom Steitz for "studies of the structure and function of the ribosome." In 2001, he gave the Dorcas Cummings lecture at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Symposium on Quantitative Biology, speaking on "Protein Factories and Antibiotics." He has also been awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the Datta Lectureship and Medal, the Sir Hans Krebs Medal, the Jiménez-Díaz Prize, the Heatley Medal, and was knighted in 2012.

Copies of Gene Machine: The Race to Discover the Secrets of the Ribosome are available for purchase at the CSHL Bookstore (employee discount 10%).

Wine and cheese will be served.

 This lecture is now available on YouTube:



The Message: A play about the discovery of messenger RNA

TheMessage Event

Friday, October 5, 2018 -  7:00pm play followed by panel discussion and reception. Your RSVP is appreciated.


  • Wally Gilbert, Ph.D.
  • Matthew Meselson, Ph.D.
  • James D. Watson, Ph.D.
  • Keith Burridge, Ph.D.

After the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick, the race was on to discover how the information encoded in the sequence of DNA is converted into the sequence of amino acids that make up proteins. The race to find the “messenger” culminated in two back-to-back papers describing the discovery of messenger RNA in Nature in 1961. One was from Sydney Brenner’s group (coauthored with Francois Jacob and Matt Meselson) and the other from Jim Watson’s group, with several co-authors, including Wally Gilbert.

The Message uses two fictional characters, one from Brenner’s group and one from Watson’s group, who participated in the discovery. They are meeting in the present time and reminiscing about the race. They are friends but old tensions and rivalries that have simmered for years come back to the surface, including their relationship with a student of one who married the other. The play illustrates the role played by ambition and competition in scientific breakthroughs, and the desire for recognition and credit.

Written by Keith Burridge – Keith Burridge is a scientist by day and a playwright by night. He did his PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and was a postdoctoral fellow with Jim Watson at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from 1975 to 1977. Staying on at CSHL for another four years as a staff scientist, he then moved to the University of North Carolina where he is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology. He has been writing plays for over a decade. His play “The Art of Deception” won Best New Play of 2014 from Playwrights First, NYC. His play “The First Woman President” was performed at the Midtown International Theater Festival in New York in November 2016, days before the last US election.

Directed by Hal Brooks – Hal Brooks is a Brooklyn-based director. He has been Artistic Director of Cape Cod Theatre Project since 2012 and is the Associate Artistic Director of Ojai Playwrights Conference. He has worked regionally, internationally, Off-Broadway and on Broadway. As Artistic Director of the Pearl Theatre Company, Brooks accepted an Obie Award last spring for artistic excellence. Brooks is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and a recipient of an NEA-TCG grant for directors. He has been a lecturer at Yale College since 2010.


Brad Cover – Broadway: A Thousand Clowns. Off Broadway: A Taste of Honey, The Ding Dong, Uncle Vanya, You Never Can Tell, The Twelve Pound Look, Henry IV Part I,The Philanderer, The Bald Soprano, Rosmersholm, Hard Times, Tartuffe –among others. (The Pearl Theatre Company. The Cartells (Drama Dept.) Love Goes to Press (The Mint). Return of the Prodigal, (The Mint). A number of staged readings with The Actor’s Company Theatre. Regional: Under a Red Moon (Human Race) Heartbreak House, Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Two River Theatre) Little Foxes, Measure for Measure, Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Love’s Labor’s Lost (New Jersey Shakespeare Festival) The Blue Room, The Importance of Being Earnest (Cleveland Playhouse) Betrayal (Vermont Stage Co.) Learned Ladies (McCarter Theatre) Lives of the Saints (Philadelphia Theatre Company) Sleuth, Othello (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival) I Hate Hamlet (New London Barn) An Empty Plate at the Cafe de Grand Beouf (Berkshire Theatre Festival), Charley’s Aunt (St. Michael’s Playhouse), Love’s Labor’s Lost, King Lear (Texas Shakespeare Festival) Television: Elementary, Person Of Interest, The Good Wife, Law and Order, All My Children.

Dominic Cuskern was on Broadway in Inherit the Wind starring George C. Scott. He played Labisse in the National Tour of Victor/Victoria. He has created four roles in plays by Terrence McNally including the role of Ganesha, the Hindu god, in A Perfect Ganesh. He is a member of the Resident Acting Company in New York City.

Rachel Botchan has appeared Off-Broadway in “God of Vengeance” (La MaMa) and over 40 productions as a member of the resident acting company of The Pearl Theatre Company. She received Equity’s Bayfield Award for her performance as Anne in “Richard III” at The Pearl and a Barrymore nomination (Best Supporting Actress) for Joan in “Orson’s Shadow” at Philadelphia Theatre Company. She has also appeared regionally at Two River Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Virginia Stage, Rep Theatre of St. Louis and Cincinnati Playhouse. Rachel is the daughter of molecular biologist, Mike Botchan and spent the first 7 years of her life living on the CSH lab grounds.

The Panel Discussion after the play is now available on YouTube:

Mad Sessions, Preprints and a Blackboard: How Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner Collaborated in the 1950s and 1960s

Cobb flyer

Matthew Cobb, the 2016-2017 Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship recipient, will be presenting a special lecture on the research project for which he received the award. Matthew is a Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester where his research focuses on the sense of smell, insect behavior and the history of science. A contributor to The Guardian and frequent guest expert on BBC Radio, he is a terrific writer. His most recent book is Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code, and he is also the author of The Egg & Sperm Race and Generation: The Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unraveled the Secrets of Sex, Life, and Growth, and acclaimed accounts of the French Resistance during the Second World War and the liberation of Paris in 1944. He has translated several books from French into English.

The lecture was present at Cold Spring Harbor on May 10, 2018.