Hermann Joseph Muller

Hermann Joseph Muller

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Hermann Joseph Muller (December 21, 1890 – April 5, 1967) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 geneticist
Geneticist
A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics, the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms. A geneticist can be employed as a researcher or lecturer. Some geneticists perform experiments and analyze data to interpret the inheritance of skills. A geneticist is also a Consultant or...

, educator, and Nobel laureate best known for his work on the physiological and genetic effects of radiation
Radiation
In physics, radiation is a process in which energetic particles or energetic waves travel through a medium or space. There are two distinct types of radiation; ionizing and non-ionizing...

 (X-ray mutagenesis) as well as his outspoken political beliefs. Muller frequently warned of the long-term dangers of radioactive fallout from nuclear war and nuclear testing
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

, helping to raise public awareness in this area. He was also the first to describe what since has become termed "irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity is an argument by proponents of intelligent design that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or "less complete" predecessors, through natural selection acting upon a series of advantageous naturally occurring, chance mutations...

", which has been used as an argument in favor of "intelligent design" by creationists opposed to the theory of evolution. Muller did not find any contradictions between "irreducible complexity" and evolution, but described the phenomenon as the result of evolution.

Early life


Muller was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and excelled in the public schools. As an adolescent, he attended a Unitarian
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 church and considered himself a pantheist; in high school he became an atheist. At 16 he entered Columbia College
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

. From his first semester he was interested in biology; he became an early convert of the Mendelian
Mendelian inheritance
Mendelian inheritance is a scientific description of how hereditary characteristics are passed from parent organisms to their offspring; it underlies much of genetics...

-chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

 theory of heredity — and the concept of genetic mutation
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

s and natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 as the basis for evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

. He formed a Biology Club and also became a proponent of eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

; the connections between biology and society would be his perennial concern. Muller earned a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree in 1910.

Muller remained at Columbia (the pre-eminent American zoology program at the time, thanks to E. B. Wilson
Edmund Beecher Wilson
Edmund Beecher Wilson was a pioneering American zoologist and geneticist. He wrote one of the most famous textbooks in the history of modern biology, The Cell.- Career :...

 and his students) for graduate school. He became interested in the Drosophila
Drosophila
Drosophila is a genus of small flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae, whose members are often called "fruit flies" or more appropriately pomace flies, vinegar flies, or wine flies, a reference to the characteristic of many species to linger around overripe or rotting fruit...

genetics work of Thomas Hunt Morgan
Thomas Hunt Morgan
Thomas Hunt Morgan was an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist and embryologist and science author who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933 for discoveries relating the role the chromosome plays in heredity.Morgan received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in zoology...

's fly lab after undergraduate bottle washers Alfred Sturtevant
Alfred Sturtevant
Alfred Henry Sturtevant was an American geneticist. Sturtevant constructed the first genetic map of a chromosome in 1913. Throughout his career he worked on the organism Drosophila melanogaster with Thomas Hunt Morgan...

 and Calvin Bridges
Calvin Bridges
Calvin Blackman Bridges was an American scientist, known for his contributions to the field of genetics. Along with Alfred Sturtevant and H.J. Muller, Bridges was part of the famous fly room of Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University.Bridges wrote a masterful Ph.D...

 joined his Biology Club. In 1911-1912, he studied metabolism at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, but remained involved with Columbia. He followed the drosophilists as the first genetic maps emerged from Morgan's experiments, and joined Morgan's group in 1912 (after two years of informal participation).

In the fly group, Muller's contributions were primarily theoretical: explanations for experimental results and ideas and predictions for new experiments. In the emerging collaborative culture of the drosophilists, however, credit was assigned based on results rather than ideas; Muller felt cheated when he was left out of major publications.

Career


In 1914, Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

 offered Muller a position at the recently founded William Marsh Rice Institute, now Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

; he hurried to complete his Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degree and moved to Houston for the beginning of the 1915-1916 academic year (his degree was issued in 1916). At Rice, Muller taught biology and continued Drosophila lab work. In 1918, he proposed an explanation for the dramatic discontinuous alterations in Oenothera larmarckiana that were the basis of Hugo de Vries
Hugo de Vries
Hugo Marie de Vries ForMemRS was a Dutch botanist and one of the first geneticists. He is known chiefly for suggesting the concept of genes, rediscovering the laws of heredity in the 1890s while unaware of Gregor Mendel's work, for introducing the term "mutation", and for developing a mutation...

's
theory of mutationism
Mutationism
Mutationism refers to the theory emphasizing mutation as a creative principle and source of discontinuity in evolutionary change, particularly associated with the founders of modern genetics....

: "balanced lethals" allowed the accumulation of recessive mutations, and rare crossing over
Crossing Over
Crossing Over may refer to:* Chromosomal crossover, a cellular process* Crossing Over , a 1998 album by Hesperus* Crossing Over, a book by John Edward* Crossing Over , a 2009 film...

 events resulted in the sudden expression of these hidden traits. In other words, de Vries's experiments were explainable by the Mendelian-chromosome theory. Muller's work was increasingly focused on mutation rate
Mutation rate
In genetics, the mutation rate is the chance of a mutation occurring in an organism or gene in each generation...

 and lethal mutations. In 1918, Morgan—short-handed because many of his students and assistants were drafted for the U.S. entry into World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

—convinced Muller to return to Columbia to teach and to expand his experimental program.

At Columbia, Muller and his collaborator and longtime friend Edgar Altenburg continued the investigation of lethal mutations. The primary method for detecting such mutations was to measure the sex ratios of the offspring of female flies. They predicted the ratio would vary from 1:1 due to recessive mutations on the X chromosome, which would only be expressed in males (who lacked the functional allele on a second X chromosome). Muller found a strong temperature dependence in mutation rate, leading him to believe that spontaneous mutation was the dominant mode (and to initially discount the role of external factors such as ionizing radiation or chemical agents). In 1920, Muller and Altenburg coauthored a seminal paper in Genetics
Genetics (journal)
Genetics is a monthly scientific journal publishing investigations bearing on heredity, genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology. Genetics is published by the Genetics Society of America...

on "modifier genes" that determine the size of mutant Drosophila wings. In 1919, Muller made the important discovery of a mutant (later found to be a chromosomal inversion
Chromosomal inversion
An inversion is a chromosome rearrangement in which a segment of a chromosome is reversed end to end. An inversion occurs when a single chromosome undergoes breakage and rearrangement within itself. Inversions are of two types: paracentric and pericentric.Paracentric inversions do not include the...

) that appeared to suppress crossing-over, which opened up new avenues in mutation rate studies. However, his appointment at Columbia was not continued; he accepted an offer from the University of Texas
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

 and left Columbia after the summer of 1920.

Muller taught at The University of Texas
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

 from 1920 until 1932. Soon after returning to Texas, he married mathematics professor Jesse Marie Jacobs, whom he had courted previously. In his early years at Texas, Muller's Drosophila work was slow going; the data from his mutation rate studies were difficult to interpret. In 1923, he began using radium
Radium
Radium is a chemical element with atomic number 88, represented by the symbol Ra. Radium is an almost pure-white alkaline earth metal, but it readily oxidizes on exposure to air, becoming black in color. All isotopes of radium are highly radioactive, with the most stable isotope being radium-226,...

 and X-rays, but the relationship between radiation and mutation was difficult to measure because such radiation also sterilized the flies. In this period, he became more involved with eugenics and human genetics. He carried out a study of twins separated at birth that seemed to indicate a strong hereditary component to I.Q. Muller was critical of the new directions of the eugenics movement (such as anti-immigration), but was hopeful about the prospects for positive eugenics.

Discovery of X-ray mutagenesis


1926 marked the beginning of a series of major breakthroughs. Beginning in November, Muller carried out two experiments with varied doses of X-rays, the second of which used the crossing over suppressor stock ("ClB") he had found in 1919. A clear, quantitative connection between radiation and lethal mutations quickly emerged. Muller's discovery created a media sensation after he delivered a paper entitled "The Problem of Genetic Modification" at the Fifth International Congress of Genetics in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

; it would make him one of the better known public intellectuals of the early 20th century. By 1928, others had replicated his dramatic results, expanding them to other model organism
Model organism
A model organism is a non-human species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms. Model organisms are in vivo models and are widely used to...

s such as wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s and maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

. In the following years, he began publicizing the likely dangers of radiation exposure in humans (such as physicians who frequently operate X-ray equipment).

His lab grew quickly, but it shrunk again following the onset of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. Especially after the stock market crash, Muller was increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

. Some of his visiting lab members were from the USSR, and he helped edit and distribute an illegal leftist student newspaper, The Spark. It was a difficult period for Muller both scientifically and personally: his marriage was falling apart, and he was increasingly dissatisfied with his life in Texas. Meanwhile, the waning of the eugenics movement, ironically hastened by his own work pointing to the previously ignored connections between environment and genetics, meant that his ideas on the future of human evolution had reduced impact in the public sphere.

Work in Europe


In September 1932, Muller moved to Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 to work with the Russian expatriate geneticist Nikolay Timofeeff-Ressovsky
Nikolay Timofeeff-Ressovsky
Nikolaj Vladimirovich Timofeev-Resovskij was a Soviet biologist. He conducted research in radiation genetics, experimental population genetics, and microevolution...

; a trip intended as a limited sabbatical stretched into an eight year, five country journey. In Berlin, he met two physicists who would later be significant to the biology community: Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

 and Max Delbrück
Max Delbrück
Max Ludwig Henning Delbrück was a German-American biophysicist and Nobel laureate.-Biography:Delbrück was born in Berlin, German Empire...

. The Nazi movement was precipitating the rapid emigration of scientific talent from Germany, and Muller was particularly opposed to the politics of National Socialism. But the FBI was investigating Muller because of his involvement with The Spark, so he chose instead to go to the Soviet Union (an environment better suited to his political beliefs). In 1933, Muller and his wife reconciled, and she and their son David E. Muller moved with Hermann to Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

. There, at the Institute of Genetics, he imported the basic equipment for a Drosophila lab—including the flies—and set up shop. The Institute was moved to Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 in 1934, and Muller and his wife were divorced in 1935.

In the USSR, Muller supervised a large and productive lab, and organized work on medical genetics. Most of his work involved further explorations of genetics and radiation. There he completed his eugenics book, Out of the Night. By 1936, however, Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's repressive policies and the rise of Lysenkoism
Lysenkoism
Lysenkoism, or Lysenko-Michurinism, also denotes the biological inheritance principle which Trofim Lysenko subscribed to and which derive from theories of the heritability of acquired characteristics, a body of biological inheritance theory which departs from Mendelism and that Lysenko named...

 was making the USSR an increasingly problematic place to live and work. Muller and much of the Russian genetics community did what they could to oppose Trofim Lysenko
Trofim Lysenko
Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a Soviet agronomist of Ukrainian origin, who was director of Soviet biology under Joseph Stalin. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of the hybridization theories of Russian horticulturist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, and adopted them into a powerful...

 and his Larmarckian
Lamarckism
Lamarckism is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring . It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck , who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories...

 evolutionary theory, but Muller was soon forced to leave the Soviet Union after Stalin read a translation of his eugenics book and was "displeased by it, and...ordered an attack prepared against it."

Muller—with about 250 strains of Drosophila—moved to Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 in September 1937, after a brief stay in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 and Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. In 1938, with war on the horizon, he began looking for a permanent position back in the United States. He also began courting Dorothea "Thea" Kantorowicz, a German refugee; they were married in May 1939. The Seventh International Congress on Genetics was held in Edinburgh later that year; Muller wrote a "Geneticists' Manifesto" in response to the question: "How could the world's population be improved most effectively genetically?" He also engaged in a debate with the perennial genetics gadfly Richard Goldschmidt
Richard Goldschmidt
Richard Benedict Goldschmidt was a German-born American geneticist. He is considered the first to integrate genetics, development, and evolution. He pioneered understanding of reaction norms, genetic assimilation, dynamical genetics, sex determination, and heterochrony...

 over the existence of the gene, for which there remained little direct physical evidence.

Later career


When Muller returned to the United States in 1940, he took an untenured research position at Amherst College
Amherst College
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. Amherst is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution and enrolled 1,744 students in the fall of 2009...

, in the department of Otto Glaser. After the U.S. entry into World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, his position was extended indefinitely and expanded to include teaching. His Drosophila work in this period focused on measuring the rate of spontaneous (as opposed to radiation-induced) mutations. Muller's publication rate decreased significantly in this period, from a combination of lack of lab workers and experimentally challenging projects. However, he also worked as an adviser to the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

 (though he did not know that was what it was), as well as a study of the mutational effects of radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

. Muller's appointment was ended after the 1944–1945 academic year, and despite difficulties stemming from his socialist political activities, he found a position as professor of zoology at Indiana University. Here, he lived in a Dutch Colonial Revival house in the city's Vinegar Hill
Vinegar Hill Historic District
The Vinegar Hill Historic District is a historic district and neighborhood in Bloomington, Indiana, United States. Built primarily in the second quarter of the twentieth century, Vinegar Hill has been the home of leading Indiana University faculty members, it has inspired literary attention, and...

 neighborhood which his grandson reports he bought with his Nobel Prize money (see next paragraph).

In 1946 Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

, "for the discovery that mutations can be induced by x-rays". Genetics, and especially the physical and physiological nature of the gene, was becoming a central topic in biology, and x-ray mutagenesis was a key to many recent advances—among them, George Beadle and Edward Tatum's work on Neurospora
Neurospora
Neurospora is a genus of Ascomycete fungi. The genus name, meaning "nerve spore" refers to the characteristic striations on the spores that resemble axons....

that established the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis
One gene-one enzyme hypothesis
The one gene-one enzyme hypothesis is the idea that genes act through the production of enzymes, with each gene responsible for producing a single enzyme that in turn affects a single step in a metabolic pathway...

.

The Nobel Prize, in the wake of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

, focused public attention on a subject Muller had been publicizing for two decades: the dangers of radiation. In 1952, nuclear fallout
Nuclear fallout
Fallout is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it "falls out" of the sky after the explosion and shock wave have passed. It commonly refers to the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes...

 became a public issue; since Operation Crossroads
Operation Crossroads
Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. It was the first test of a nuclear weapon after the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945...

, more and more evidence had been leaking out about radiation sickness
Radiation Sickness
Radiation Sickness is a VHS by the thrash metal band Nuclear Assault. The video is a recording of a concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, London in 1988. It was released in 1991...

 and death caused by nuclear testing
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

, and Muller was one of the foremost experts. Muller—and many other scientists—pursued an array of political activities to defuse the threat of nuclear war
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

. With the Castle Bravo
Castle Bravo
Castle Bravo was the code name given to the first U.S. test of a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb device, detonated on March 1, 1954 at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, as the first test of Operation Castle. Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States ,...

 fallout controversy in 1954, the issue became even more urgent. In 1955 Muller was one of eleven prominent intellectuals to sign the Russell-Einstein Manifesto
Russell-Einstein Manifesto
The Russell–Einstein Manifesto was issued in London on July 9, 1955 by Bertrand Russell in the midst of the Cold War. It highlighted the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and called for world leaders to seek peaceful resolutions to international conflict...

, the upshot of which was the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs is an international organization that brings together scholars and public figures to work toward reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats...

 in 1957, which addressed the control of nuclear weapons. He was a signatory (with many other scientists) of the 1958 petition to the United Nations, calling for an end to nuclear weapons testing, which was initiated by the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century...

.

He was awarded the Linnean Society of London
Linnean Society of London
The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history. It publishes a zoological journal, as well as botanical and biological journals...

's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal
Darwin-Wallace Medal
The Darwin–Wallace Medal is a medal awarded by the Linnean Society of London for "major advances in evolutionary biology". Historically, the medals have been awarded every 50 years, beginning in 1908...

 in 1958.

H. J. Muller and science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin were second cousins; his father (Hermann J. Muller Sr.) and her father's mother (Johanna Muller Kroeber) were siblings, the children of Nicholas Müller who immigrated to the United States in 1848. Another cousin was Herbert J. Muller
Herbert J. Muller
Herbert J. Muller was an American historian, academic, government official and author. He was educated at Cornell University. He taught at Cornell, Purdue and Indiana University , served in the Department of State, the War Production Board, and frequently lectured abroad.He is the author of "The...

, whose grandfather Otto was another son of Nicholas and a sibling of Hermann Sr. and Johanna.

Personal life


Muller is survived by his daughter, Helen J. Muller, now an Emeritus professor at the University of New Mexico, who has a daughter, Mala Htun. His son, David E. Muller, an Emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Illinois and at New Mexico State University, died in 2008 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His children are Chandra L. Muller and Kenneth J. Muller. Dorothea Kantorowicz Muller was Helen Muller's mother, and Jessie Jacobs Muller Offermann was David Muller's mother. David E. Muller was the inventor of the Muller C-element
C-element
The Muller C-element, or Muller C-gate, is a commonly used asynchronous logic component originally designed by David E. Muller. It applies logical operations on the inputs and has hysteresis. The output of the C-element reflects the inputs when the states of all inputs match. The output then...

, a device used to implement asynchronous circuitry in electronic computers.

Former graduate students

  • H. Bentley Glass
    H. Bentley Glass
    Hiram Bentley Glass was an American geneticist and noted columnist. Born in China to missionary parents, he attended college at Baylor University in Texas. He then furthered his education at the University of Texas, where he received his Ph.D. degree under the mentorship of geneticist Hermann...

  • C.P. Oliver
  • Wilson Stone
    Wilson Stone
    Wilson Stuart Stone was an American geneticist and zoologist. Dr. Stone received his bachelor, Masters and PhD at the University of Texas and joined the department of zoology in 1932. Dr. Stone mentors were J.T. Patterson, H.J. Muller, and Theophilus Painter. Dr...

  • Elof Axel Carlson
    Elof Axel Carlson
    Elof Axel Carlson is distinguished teaching professor emeritus at State University of New York at Stony Brook, as well as an American geneticist and noted historian of Science. Dr. Carlson earned his B.A. in 1953 from New York University, and his PhD in 1958 in zoology from Indiana University...

  • Seymour Abrahamson
  • William Edgar Trout III
  • Dale Eugene Wagoner
  • Sara Helen Frye
  • Abraham P. Schalet
  • Irwin I. Oster


Former post-doctoral fellows
  • George D. Snell


Worked in lab as undergraduates
  • Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan
    Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

  • Margaret Edmondson


People who worked in his lab in Indiana
http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/lilly/mss/subfile/mullerindiana.html

See also

  • Muller's ratchet
    Muller's ratchet
    In evolutionary genetics, Muller's ratchet is the process by which the genomes of an asexual population accumulate deleterious mutations in an irreversible manner....

  • Muller's morphs
    Muller's morphs
    1946 Nobel Prize winner Hermann J. Muller coined the terms amorph, hypomorph, hypermorph, antimorph and neomorph to classify mutations based on their behaviour in various genetic situations. These classifications are still widely used in Drosophila genetics to describe mutations...

  • History of biology
    History of biology
    The history of biology traces the study of the living world from ancient to modern times. Although the concept of biology as a single coherent field arose in the 19th century, the biological sciences emerged from traditions of medicine and natural history reaching back to ayurveda, ancient Egyptian...

  • History of genetics
    History of genetics
    The history of genetics started with the work of the Augustinian friar Gregor Johann Mendel. His work on pea plants, published in 1866, described what came to be known as Mendelian Inheritance...

  • History of model organisms
    History of model organisms
    The history of model organisms began with the idea that certain organisms can be studied and used to gain knowledge of other organisms or as a control for other organisms of the same species. Model organisms offer standards that serve as the authorized basis for comparison of other organisms...


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