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Bruno Zimm Papers
MSS 0675  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Zimm, Bruno
    Title: Bruno Zimm Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1941 - 2001
    Extent: 7.60 linear feet (19 archives boxes)
    Abstract: Papers of Bruno Zimm, inventor, educator, and polymer DNA scientist. Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at University of California, San Diego, from 1960 to 1991 and professor emeritus after his retirement in 1991. Zimm is known for his work on understanding the fundamental physical and chemical properties of DNA. His theoretical models helped discover how to measure the size of DNA molecules and their propensity. The papers include numerous scientific articles published in polymer science and biophysical chemistry journals and extensive collection of research influenced subject files. The materials also document his early scientific career with General Electric Company, grant project investigations, and teaching materials in the Department of Chemistry, which he helped establish in 1960. Additionally the papers include correspondence, laboratory research notebooks, and biographical materials.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0675
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Bruno Zimm Papers, MSS 0675. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


    Born in Woodstock, New York, on October 31, 1920, Bruno Hasbrouck Zimm grew up in an artistic household with his father, a sculptor and his mother, a writer. His education began at Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor's degree of science in 1941, followed by a master's in 1943, and a Ph.D. in 1944, the latter was under the direction of theoretical chemical physicist, Joseph Mayer, with Zimm's thesis on the vapor pressures of alkali halides and lattice energies. Toward the end of World War II, Zimm participated in war-related research on light scattering by smokes under Victor K. LaMer.
    After leaving Columbia University, Zimm briefly taught at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he collaborated with polymer scientist Herman Mark. He joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, for four years (1946-1950), and taught as visiting faculty at Harvard University. During his tenure at Berkeley, he continued his work on light scattering, which he had developed while at Brooklyn, and invented the "Zimm Plot" for determining both size and shape factors for large molecules. He then worked at General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York, for nine years (1951-1960), during which time he continued to study synthetic polymers.
    After a brief period as visiting faculty at Yale University, he accepted a position at the University of California, San Diego (1960), where he helped establish the Department of Chemistry, along with Joseph Mayer, Stanley Miller, David Bonner, and Stanley Mills. He remained at UCSD until his death.
    After his arrival at UCSD, Zimm began a long-term experimental project to find the true lengths of native DNA molecules. In order to test these theories, in 1963, he and post-doctoral student Don Crothers devised an apparatus to measure the lengths of long polymers using the viscosity of solutions, namely a rotating cylinder viscometer, although the device took about ten years to fully evolve. This research allowed him, with post-doctoral biologist Ruth Kavenoff, to measure for the first time the size of a DNA molecule in an intact fruit fly chromosome. The research concluded that each chromosome was composed of a single densely folded DNA molecule. Later on in his research career, he focused on theoretical schemes for the counter-ion environment around DNA. Zimm also taught courses on macromolecules in the UCSD Department of Chemistry for graduate and undergraduate students.
    Zimm was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958 and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received numerous honors and awards, including the Bingham Medal of the Society of Rheology in 1960, the American Physical Society High-Polymer Physics Prize in 1963, and the National Academy's Award in Chemical Sciences in 1981.
    Bruno Zimm died on November 26, 2005.
    References used:
    Doolittle, Russell. "Bruno H. Zimm (1920-2005)", PROTEIN SCIENCE, 2006, 15:942-944.
    Stockmayer, Walter. "Bruno Zimm on His 65th Birthday", MACROMOLECULES, Volume 18, Number 11, 1985.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The papers of Bruno Zimm, prominent biophysical and polymer chemist, document the scientific career of a leading theoretical inventor and academician in the field of biological and synthetic macromolecules. Well-represented in the collection are his scientific writings; correspondence with notable colleagues, Joseph Mayer and Walter Stockmayer; and science based research files. The papers also include materials generated during his tenure at the General Electric Company and, more prominently, as a founding faculty member of the University of California, San Diego Department of Chemistry. Additional materials include grant applications and correspondence, laboratory notebooks, and biographical documents.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in two subseries: A) Alphabetical and B) Chronological. The first subseries contains correspondence between Zimm and researchers, colleagues, and various persons in the scientific community. The second subseries contains chronological correspondence from 1949-1998, generated by Zimm, and includes subsequent response letters.
    The WRITING series includes three subseries: A) Numbered Reprints, B) Unnumbered Reprints, and C) Reviewed By.
    A) The Numbered Reprints subseries includes numerically arranged reprints dating from 1944 to 1994.
    B) The Unnumbered Writing subseries gathers both published and unpublished manuscripts and reprints not listed with the numbered reprints. The titles are arranged alphabetically.
    C) The Reviewed By subseries, arranged by author's name, contains copies of papers submitted by colleagues for review and remarked on by Zimm.
    The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged in three subseries: A) Award Recommendation Letters, B) Research, and C) Drawings.
    A) The materials in the Award Recommendation Letters subseries are letters written by Zimm recommending colleagues' accomplishments for national awards.
    B) The Research files subseries, arranged alphabetically, includes source materials related to Zimm's research interests, including several folders on light scattering theory and electrophoresis projects. The files contain research notes, calculations, correspondence, and laboratory data.
    C) The Drawings subseries represents miscellaneous illustrations and renderings of prototype devices, scientific data charts and graphs.
    The GRANT MATERIALS are grant and patent applications for the UCSD-funded project for the device separator for large polymer molecules, which Zimm co-investigated with Kenneth Dill, beginning in 1979. The files also include the theoretical light scattering equation research innovated by Zimm in 1948, and later funded by the Wyatt Technology Corporation to construct a device to plot the equations in 1986. The materials are arranged alphabetically.
    The GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY series documents Zimm's early scientific work at the General Electric Research Laboratory as a physical chemist. The files contain reports and laboratory memos Zimm authored regarding his research into polymer solutions. The papers are arranged alphabetically by title.
    Zimm helped establish the UCSD Department of Chemistry in 1960 and taught courses in biochemistry and macromolecules until his retirement in 1991. The files contain curriculum materials such as lecture notes, handouts, exams, and the student laboratory experiments for the measurements of DNA molecules. The materials are arranged alphabetically by course title.
    The LABORATORY NOTEBOOKS series consists of notebooks relating to Zimm's research at the General Electric Research Laboratory from 1950-1958 and in the Department of Chemistry at University of California, San Diego. The early notebooks supported statistical data reflecting experiments involving methods of determining molecular weights and shapes. His UCSD research diary notebooks reflect the long-term experimental DNA project utilizing an apparatus to measure the viscosity of solutions. The notebooks are arranged chronlogically.
    Arranged alphabetically, the BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series contains personal history documents including biographies, curriculum vitae, Columbia University education materials, photographs of Zimm, awards, newspaper articles, miscellaneous memorabilia, and an interview of Zimm by the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Zimm, Bruno -- Archives
    DNA -- Structure
    Molecular structure
    Light -- Scattering
    Polymer solutions