Genetics and Social Responsibility

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations
Tuesday, October 07, 2014 Belmont Media Center, Belmont MA

Jon Beckwith, PhD, American Cancer Society Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School. The Beckwith Lab

Professor Beckwith is a leading researcher in genetics. Among the many achievements of his group is the isolation of the first gene from a bacterial chromosome in 1969. Other contributions include the discovery of the mechanisms of protein secretion and cell division.

Throughout his career, Dr. Beckwith has also been a major voice for educating the public and the broader science community about the social implications of genetic science. He spoke out early against the testing of boys for XYY chromosomes and was a member of the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Committee of the Human Genome Project initiated by James D. Watson. He has worked on issues of social responsibility in science and since 1983 has taught a course on the Social Issues in Biology at Harvard University, one of the first of its kind. His book, Making Genes, Making Waves (Harvard Univ Press, 2002) describes his development as both scientist and activist. In the October 07 program, he discusses his remarkable history.

Distinctions and Awards

  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences
  • Guggenheim Fellowship for Natural Sciences, US & Canada
  • (2005) Abbott-ASM Lifetime Achievement Award, American Society for Microbiology
  • (2009) Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of Sciences

Jon Beckwith trained with several of the luminaries of microbiology: Sydney Brenner, Arthur Pardee and Francois Jacob.

original 1969 Harvard Crimson article about the isolation of a bacterial gene

Jon Beckwith’s Genetics and Society group publications

Some reviews of Making Genes, Making Waves