Adrian M. Srb

Cornell University

March 4, 1917 - May 24, 1997

Scientific Discipline: Plant Biology
Membership Type:
Emeritus (elected 1968)

During a career that spanned more than 40 years, Adrian Srb’s research answered fundamental questions in the field of molecular genetics. Using primarily the bread mold Neurospora, he provided early evidence for the “one gene-one enzyme” hypothesis, as well as a wealth of information about how mutations affect the function of genes that are involved in growth and metabolism, how specific compounds are able to mutate genes, and how heritability is affected by the cytoplasm.

Srb studied English literature as an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska before his interest was drawn to biology. He earned a masters degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska in 1941 and earned his PhD in biology  from Stanford University in 1946. He followed his mentor to the California Institute of Technology, working as a National Research Council fellow while simultaneously appointed as assistant professor at Stanford. In 1947 Srb moved to Cornell University as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 1951. He remained on the faculty at Cornell for the rest of his career.

In addition to his published research, Srb co-authored the first and second editions of the textbook General Genetics, which was, for many years, the standard that other genetic textbooks authors sought to emulate. During World War II, he participated in a research project at Stanford to boost the penicillin production of Penicillium, and in later years he advised federal agencies and universities on the importance of multidisciplinary research, education, and training programs in genetics.

Srb was a member of the Botany Section of the National Academy of Sciences. He was also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society of Naturalists. He was an honorary foreign fellow of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh and an honorary member of the Chilean Genetics Society.

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