The Life and Career of Miklós Müller--June 3, 2014
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These interviews are the fifth in a series of profiles on the lives and work of participants in the New York Hungarian Table, which meets for lunch once a month in Morningside in New York City. This installment features two interviews with Miklós Müller, Professor Emeritus of Biology at The Rockefeller University where he has specialized in the field of human parasites. In addition to his scientific work, Müller has also written on the Soviet biologists Trofim Lysenko and Olga Lepeshinskaya, and on the history of biology in East-Central Europe during the postwar period. The interview was conduced on June 3, 2014 in New York. Special thanks go to Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, Máté Rigó, for his assistance in cataloging the interview. To download an audio file of the complete interview, click here.
Interview Themes: 00:00 Introduction, academic career; 01:00 Family background; father was an architect; 02:00 Family life in Buda; 03:00 Ancestors came from Saxony to Hungary in 1870s; 04:00 Hungarian spoken at home; 06:00 Father worked for ministry in the 1940s; 06:30 Káplár utca, Budapest family home occupied by Russian troops; 08:00 Siege of Budapest; 09:00 Loss of father as a generational experiment; Müller’s father dies in February 1945; 10:20 Interest in microscopes, chemistry, astronomy during his teenage years; 11:00 Science education in the 1940s; 13:00 Came to USA in 1964; 15:40 Father tells him on his death bed to start learning Russian; 16:50 No discussion of politics at home; 18:40 Teaching assistant at the university in Budapest; 19:00 Interpreter for Soviet visitors at 23; Digestion inside unicellular organisms as research topic; Many Western publications by early 1960s; 22:00 1963 - Receives invitation to a conference in London, which garners invitations for research visits to the West; 23:00 Left Hungary for professional reasons; 24:10 Participation in the 1956 revolution; 24:30 Hospital in 1956, Polish blood shipment; 26:00 Operations during the revolution; 29:00 Soviet science and pseudo science; 30:00 Visit to Soviet scientific institutes in the early 1960s, secrecy, crowded living conditions; 34:00 Socialization at the Soviet academy; 37:00 Changes in Russian science research; reduced funding; 40:00 The moving of the Hungarian academy from the prestigious castle hill to the outskirts; 42:00 Hungarian academic research; 46:00 Interest in art, European School, Árpád Mezei, Hungarian abstract painting; 48:00 Aesthetic experiences, the importance of patterns, symbiosis between artistic and scientific interests; 54:00 Novelty of scientific and artistic production; his scientific research and innovation; 56:00 Lysenko and Soviet, “absurd” biology; 59:00 Ideology and science, creationism; 1:01:00 Structural shifts in scientific research from a cottage industry to billion-dollar projects; 1:04:00 Scientists and a lack of interest in big questions; technocratic approach to science; 1:09:00 Scientific community in America; Nobel prize recipients; 1:14:00 Paul Nurse; contemporary politics in Hungary