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Interview with James E. Darnell, Jr.

Born in 1930, Jim Darnell talks about growing up in segregated Mississippi and the central role that attending medical school at Washington University in St. Louis played in getting him out of the South and into a lifetime of research.

Darnell describes his first experiment, which he conducted as a medical student in Robert Glaser’s lab. He tells the story of learning virology in Harry Eagle’s lab at NIH; and he recalls the thrill of working in François Jacob’s lab in Paris in 1960 when the lab was one of only three worldwide that knew about messenger RNA.

Determined upon his return to the U.S. in 1961 to search for messenger RNA, Darnell gives detailed accounts of the research that led to discovering ribosomal RNA processing and, with George Stark, the JAK-STAT pathway.

This short film is excerpted from the oral history interview conducted with James E. Darnell, Jr. on May 16 and 17 and June 21, 2017.