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Guide to the Paul Berg Papers SC0358
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  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Provenance
  • Preferred Citation:
  • Biography
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content

  • Title: Paul Berg papers
    Identifier/Call Number: SC0358
    Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 86.0 Linear feet
    Date (inclusive): 1953-1996
    creator: Berg, Paul, 1926-
    creator: Berg, Paul,, 1926-

    Access Restrictions

    Search files, student files, personnel files, letters of recommendation, and other confidential materials are restricted.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.


    Gift of Paul Berg, 1989, 1991, 2000, 2007.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item], Paul Berg Papers (SC0358). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Biochemistry Professor at Stanford University since 1960, Berg received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1980 for "fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids with particular regard to recombinant DNA." He was appointed Director of Stanford's Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine in 1984. In 1967, Berg, working at the Salk Institute, redirected his study of protein synthesis from bacterial cells to tumor viruses. By 1970, this research had led Berg and his associates to conclude their experiments could form the basis of "man-made living matter." Spurred by growing ethical questions, Berg chaired the National Academy of Sciences 1975 conference which focused on the potential hazards of recombinant DNA research and resulted in the policy and quidelines which form the framework for genetic research.


    1952-1954: American Cancer Society fellow, Institute in Copenhagen and Washington University School of medicine. His work was concerned with clarifying how the master substances of heredity, DNA, transfers its genetic information to analogous molecules, known as RNA, which serve as templates for making proteins.
    1954: Scholar in cancer research at University of Washington. His work on the genetic apparatus that directs the synthesis of protein earned Berg the Eli Lilly award in biochemistry in 1959.
    1960: Stanford School of Medicine, associate professor of biochemistry and until 1967 continued work on protein synthesis. All this work was based on bacterial cells, but in 1967, he decided to do research on animal cells, taking a year's leave. He worked at the Salk Institute on tumor viruses.
    1970: By about 1970, Berg and his associates began to think how they might use tumor viruses to bring new genes to animal cells - "man-made living matter" or "engineered a new genetic molecule." This raised the question of ethics, so, in 1973, they stopped experimentation.
    1975: National Academy of Sciences sponsors meeting, chaired by Berg, whose purpose is to conduct a survey of potential hazards involved (Asilomar). This resulted in a set of recommendations to establish guidelines to put certain constraints on experiments; these were organized by the NIH and are used as guidelines today.
    1980: Berg was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for "fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids with particular regard to recombinant DNA." Berg was also responsible for shaping "policy" for dealing with possible risks of recombinant DNA research.
    1984: Appointed director of Stanford University's Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine.

    Scope and Content

    Collection focuses on Berg's work with recombinant DNA and includes professional correspondence, 1959-1985; research lab notebooks for the years 1953-1986 which document his work with protein synthesis in bacterial cells and tumor viruses; records concerning the National Academy of Sciences conference on recombinant DNA research guidelines; records from his Stanford positions including administrative files, grant files, departmental records, student files, lectures, and symposia; reprints and illustrations; and videotapes and audiotapes.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    National Academy of Sciences (U.S.).
    Stanford University. Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine.
    Stanford University. Dept. of Biochemistry. -- General subdivision--Faculty.;
    Molecular genetics.
    Nobel Prizes.
    Recombinant DNA--Research.
    Science--Moral and ethical aspects.