For a distinguished 57-year career — as a founder of modern cell biology and the field of chromosome structure and function; bold experimentalist; inventor of in situ hybridization; and early champion of women in science.
The 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science honors a seminal contributor to the field of chromosome structure and function, inventor of in situ hybridization, and long-standing champion of women in science. Joseph Gall, of the Carnegie Institution (Department of Embryology at Baltimore) ranks among the most distinguished cell biologists in the history of the discipline. Gall is widely respected for his approach to scientific problems: He is thoughtful, committed to his work, and displays a high degree of insight and integrity. He has trained many active researchers, including women, whom he welcomed into his lab before anyone was talking about excellence through diversity.
Science and nature captured Gall’s interest as a child. He collected amphibians, insects, and later, tiny pond creatures. By age 14, he was peering through his own microscope to see how these organisms were built. Well before he studied zoology as a college student, he had familiarized himself with the quirks of a large number of animals and microbes. This knowledge equipped him to identify organisms that were particularly likely to lend themselves to the varied cell biological questions that he has tackled during his career.
Award presentation by Joan Steitz
I was a freshly minted graduate of a small Midwestern liberal arts college when I first set foot in Joe Gall’s lab in the summer of 1963. It was located in the century-old Zoology Building on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota. I was slated to begin Harvard Medical School in the fall, and had wanted to spend the summer beforehand at home with my parents. As an undergraduate, I had been extremely fortunate to have been introduced to the brand new field of molecular biology because of my school’s work-study program. I had therefore interviewed for several summer research positions at the University of Minnesota, but Joe was the only one who offered me a job.