Muller, Hermann J.

Muller, Hermann J. (Joseph)

(1890–1967) geneticist; born in New York City. He was one of Thomas H. Morgan's graduate students at Columbia University, then taught at the Rice Institute (1915–18) where he used the fruit fly Drosophila to discover that X-rays can produce mutations. He returned to Columbia (1918–20), where he theorized that self-replicating genes can control the function of all other cellular components, then became a professor at the University of Texas (1920–32), where he continued his work on the mutagenic effects of X-rays. For his pioneering work in radiation genetics, he was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in physiology. He took leave from the University of Texas to perform research in Moscow (1933–37), but left after disagreeing with Stalin's endorsement of an environmental, rather than genetic, explanation of inherited traits. He became a lecturer and researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (1937–40), then returned to the U.S.A. as a researcher at Amherst College (1940–45). He joined the University of Indiana (1945–64), and remained active as a visiting professor at various institutions until his death. From 1935 on, he was a proponent of his controversial "positive human eugenic" belief that unusually healthy and gifted men should donate their sperm for the betterment of future generations.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.