Talk:Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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Comment[edit]

This history is pretty mild maybe Edwin Blacks book "war Against The Weak" should be cited. This Lab was involved in Eugenics a monstrous program against humans. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.2.92.12 (talk) 02:13, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Just added some minor changes, and an external link. Needs more work, to be sure. JonesE

Over the transom[edit]

There was a recently-created article called "Harrison Dimple Jr." that led me to write to the public information officer of the CSHL. After he denied the existence of Dimple I invited him to look over our related articles. He sent me some corrections that I edited into this article. They seem reasonable to me, but I cannot take responsibility for them and other editors should make up their own minds. Cheers, -Willmcw 08:41, Jun 21, 2005 (UTC)


Reverted it. thanks guys --130.108.185.198 03:55, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

What did you revert? -Will Beback 05:06, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
Look over the history of the IP. He's just a sneaky vandal. – ClockworkSoul 13:41, 29 March 2006 (UTC)


This article makes no mention of Charles Davenport and Eugenics. I think that it should. 18.244.7.23 01:03, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

They are mentioned in the last paragraph. ·:·Will Beback ·:· 05:20, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Naming[edit]

I don't understand why my bona fide change is being reverted. The article currently states that the laboratory is named after the village of Cold Spring Harbor, which is not true (and not in the references supplied, one of which is a broken link). Both the village and the laboratory are named after the actual harbor. It is simply preposterous to suggest that the lab is named after a village in which it is not located. --209.6.132.39 (talk) 23:15, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

Mutual Misunderstanings?[edit]

The following discussion is copied from my talk page to this article talk page so that more interested editors can weigh in the topic. WikiDan61ChatMe!ReadMe!! 12:16, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Dear WikiDan61;

I'm the senior science writer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and also, as it happens, a Ph.D. in American history; I've tried to bring myself up to speed on the recent series of exchanges between some folks here at the Lab and you regarding our Webmaster's attempts to make changes to the CSHL page on Wikipedia. (I'm writing you from the Webmaster's Wiki account, for I do not have one) First, let me apologize for the misunderstanding at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s end about Wiki procedures and etiquette. I think our attempt to replace blocks of text, or indeed our entire article, in wholesale fashion was unfortunate and I can tell you that we understand the issues you raised at your end. However, I'd also like to suggest that our initial error seems to have cast in a suspicious light our efforts to correct errors of fact on the existing CSHL page. I'm writing to try to allay any such suspicions, and to tell you directly our purpose, which is entirely benign. In reading over the page, we found a number of factual errors; we seek to fix these on the published webpage.

Some of these errors I would expect to be viewed as wholly uncontroversial, such as the number of CSHL faculty, staff and budget (the correct categories and numbers as of end-year 2011, are: Faculty & Research staff: 78; total research staff: 504; total employees, 1105. Budget: $137 million); also, the caption of the main photo of the Laboratory which refers to the institution incorrectly in the plural: “Laboratories.”

Other errors concern matters of historical record, about which, as a historian, I would be the first to acknowledge are subject to debate and discussion. In what remains of this note I would like to focus only on the paragraph that begins "From 1910 to 1940," which concerns the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) and its relationship to the contemporary Laboratory's precursor institutions. It contains several errors of historical fact, each of which is fully confirmable on your part via published documentary sources and published books that I have footnoted here.

1. It is not true that "from 1910 to 1940 the Laboratory was also the home of the Eugenics Record Office of biologist Charles B. Davenport and his assistant Harry H. Laughlin...."

2. The existing account implies that the ERO’s “findings” were “incorporated” into the National Origins Act. This is a distortion of the record which will benefit from additional contextual information. The ERO’s “data” did not by any stretch of the imagination win passage of the Act. It was a part of a much larger process that led to the drafting of the legislation.

3. Most important of all, the paragraph in question ends with this loaded statement: “In spite of Davenport’s strong sympathies with the racist Eugen Fischer as well as other Nazi party members at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, Cold Spring Harbor continued to proudly support Davenport until 1963. [citation needed].” There are major errors of fact here, and I am not surprised that you have failed to find a citation that will confirm this statement. It is false.

What to do about the errors? I think the first one needs to be corrected (see below); I would also argue that since the ERO was NOT PART OF THE LABORATORY, it is unfair – a kind of guilt by association – to provide details of the ERO’s career under the larger heading “Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.” The ERO deserves and has its own page, on which its distinct history can be described. It is a history separate from that of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and its institutional precursors.

If objective editors agree, then I think it is only proper for you to remove much of the remainder of the paragraph beginning “From 1910-1940,” and especially the final sentence which imputes that the contemporary Laboratory was in some manner “supporting” Davenport until 1963! Davenport died in 1944, and his administrative duties at the Laboratory’s precursor institution ceased in 1934. Here is my proposed rewrite of this paragraph, with footnotes:

From 1910 to 1940, a site in Laurel Hollow, New York adjacent to but separate from the site occupied by the institutional precursors of today’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was the home of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics_Record_Office>. The ERO was founded in 1910 by the biologist Charles B. Davenport, who at the time was director of both the Biological Laboratory and the Carnegie Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor.[FN 1, below] The parcel occupied by the ERO was donated by Mrs. E. H. Harriman, widow of the railroad magnate. Davenport was a champion of Mendelian genetics whose research interests ranged from the pedigree and breeding of plants and animals to the study, beginning ca. 1907-10, of the inheritance of human physical characteristics.[FN 2, below] He appointed Harry Laughlin as Superintendent of the ERO in 1910 and for the next quarter-century, the two were key figures in American eugenics. [FN 3, below]. Davenport retired as Director of the Biological Laboratory in 1924 and on his retirement from Carnegie’s Department of Genetics in 1934, became an Associate of the Carnegie Institution until his death in 1944. [FN 4, below]


FOOTNOTES: 1. Micklos, David, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: The First Hundred Years (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1988), p. 35 2. Watson, Elizabeth L., Houses for Science: A Pictorial History of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1991), pp. 70-71. See also: Jan A. Witkowski, “Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944” in Witkowski J and Inglis J, eds., Davenport’s Dream: 21st Century Reflections on Heredity and Eugenics (Cold Spring Harbor Press, 2008), pp. 35-58, and Elof A. Carlson, “The Eugenic World of Charles Benedict Davenport,” ibid., 59-76. 3. Witkowski, “Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944,” op. cit., p. 49. 4. Witkowski, “Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944,” op. cit., pp. 52-54.

Sincerely, Peter J. Tarr, Ph.D. Saber79 (talk) 20:54, 11 April 2012 (UTC)

Dr. Tarr,
Thank you for taking the time to address this issue and to try to set the record straight.
Your associate (Saber79 (talk · contribs)) went a bit overboard in his efforts to rewrite CSHL's history, and as you have pointed out, his zeal coupled with his stated conflict of interest made all of his subsequent edits suspect.
As for the points you raise, I would like to address them individually.
  1. Factual errors of a non-controversial nature (such as the number of employees and the annual budget) can easily be updated: I would suggest a comment on the talk page could address that. Or even a direct edit to the page; I doubt anyone would argue with such a minor change.
  2. The matter of the Eugenics Record Office is significantly more problematic. The distinction you point out (that the ERO was a separate adjacent facility that happened to be run by the same man as CSHL) is a fine point indeed. The fact that CSHL currently houses the archives of the ERO (here), and that both Davenport and Laughlin had prominent positions at the Station for Experimental Evolution (CSHL's predecessor) and the ERO indicates that the SEE (later CSHL) was supportive of, if not directly involved in, the ERO. I can understand that CSHL might want to distance itself from an ugly past, and certainly the negative, unsourced comment you point out about "proudly supporting Davenport until 1963" (19 years after his death!) can and should be removed, but to divorce the CSHL from the ERO would be as gross a distortion of history as you imply the present page is. The ERO only had the legitimacy that it did because of its association with the already prominent Carnegie Institute of which the SEE was part. So whether or not it was part of the SEE, it was perceived as part of the SEE.
I propose a compromise on your proposed paragraph. (I should note that Micklos is definitely a questionable source, being published by CSHL itself -- see WP:Primary sources.)
In 1910, Charles B. Davenport, then director of the SEE, and his assistant, Harry H. Laughlin, founded the Eugenics Record Office at the laboratory.[2] On land adjacent to the existing site, donated by Mrs. E.H. Harriman (widow of the railroad magnate), Davenport and Laughlin built the facility that was to play a key role in the eugenics movement in the United States.[2]
Davenport was a champion of Mendelian genetics whose research interests ranged from the pedigree and breeding of plants and animals to the study, beginning ca. 1907-10, of the inheritance of human physical characteristics.[3] He appointed Harry Laughlin as Superintendent of the ERO in 1910 and for the next quarter-century, the two were key figures in American eugenics.[4] Davenport retired as Director of the Biological Laboratory in 1924 and on his retirement from Carnegie’s Department of Genetics in 1934, became an Associate of the Carnegie Institution until his death in 1944.[5]
Notes:
[1] Allen, Garland E. (1986). "The Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, 1910-1940: An Essay in Institutional History". Osiris 2: 225-265. 
[2] Micklos, David (1988). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: The First Hundred Years. p. 35.  Text "publisher-Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
 " ignored (help)
[3] Watson, Elizabeth L. (1991). Houses for Science: A Pictorial History of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. pp. 70–71. 
[3A] Witkowski, Jan A. (2008). "Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944". In Witkowski, J; Inglis, J. Davenport’s Dream: 21st Century Reflections on Heredity and Eugenics. Cold Spring Harbor Press. pp. 35–58. 
[3B] Carlson, Elof A. (2008). "The Eugenic World of Charles Benedict Davenport". In Witkowski, J; Inglis, J. Davenport’s Dream: 21st Century Reflections on Heredity and Eugenics. Cold Spring Harbor Press. pp. 59–76. 
[4] Witkowski, Jan A. (2008). "Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944". In Witkowski, J; Inglis, J. Davenport’s Dream: 21st Century Reflections on Heredity and Eugenics. Cold Spring Harbor Press. p. 49. 
[5] Witkowski, Jan A. (2008). "Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944". In Witkowski, J; Inglis, J. Davenport’s Dream: 21st Century Reflections on Heredity and Eugenics. Cold Spring Harbor Press. pp. 52–54. 

Dear WikiDan61,


Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply. I like your compromise, but would like to make an additional clarification which would alter the text somewhat.

1. I’ll do as you say and enter the changes re. “facts and figures” on the “talk page”; thanks. 2. You need not cite the Micklos document. I understand your objection. The same facts are contained in Witkowski’s cited historical essay, “Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944” Speaking of footnotes, I see two [2]’s and no [1]s in the paragraph you sent. But I propose to change the paragraph in any case, so no matter. See the next item. 3. There are two factual errors in the first sentence of the compromise doc. Laughlin was not Davenport’s assistant; he was a scientist interested originally in plant and animal breeding, who met Davenport at a meeting and decided to come to the SEE to work with him [Witkowski, “Charles Benedict Davenport, 1866-1944,” op. cit., pp. 49-51]. I would probably be more accurate to call him an “acolyte” than an assistant. The second error is that the ERO was NOT founded “at the Laboratory.” This is, as you say, a fine point, but I think it is important. It was established by Davenport in 1910 on land adjacent to the SEE purchased with funds solicited from Mrs. E.H. Harriman; I hasten to add that this is not to in any way suggest that Davenport was not involved in the “research” and other doings of the ERO. I just want to make clear the ERO was not established “AT” the SEE. I’m perfectly fine with “established on land adjacent to the SEE and directed by Laughlin, and at times, Davenport.”

As you sent it to me, the 1st sentence of the compromise paragraph reads: In 1910, Charles B. Davenport, then director of the SEE, and his assistant, Harry H. Laughlin, founded the Eugenics Record Office at the laboratory.[2] On land adjacent to the existing site, donated by Mrs. E.H. Harriman (widow of the railroad magnate), Davenport and Laughlin built the facility that was to play a key role in the eugenics movement in the United States.[2]

I would amend as follows: In 1910, Charles B. Davenport, then director of the Station for Experimental Evolution of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (one of the precursor institutions of the modern CSHL), and his scientific acolyte, Harry H. Laughlin, founded the Eugenics Record Office on a parcel of land adjacent to the Laboratory donated by Mrs. E.H. Harriman, widow of the railroad magnate. Both Davenport and Laughlin would play key roles in the eugenics movement in the United States. [FN: ]

The remainder of the proposed compromise paragraph is acceptable to me. Now, if you will bear with me, a final point, for the record.

4 The fact that part of the ERO archives are housed at the present-day Library & Archives of the modern CSHL should only connote the institution’s strong desire to preserve the record for future generations. Which brings me to a final point. You say that you understand “CSHL might want to distance itself from an ugly past,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Any imputation made to this effect is demonstrably incorrect. The Laboratory has made significant efforts over decades to shed light on, and not in any way or at any time to hide, the details of the “research” on eugenics performed by Davenport, Laughlin and indeed others. Eugenics is deemed at the Laboratory, and in the field of the History of Science generally, an extremely important instance of how science can go awry, and how science performed in the service of avowedly political and/or social agendas is a very dangerous thing. This has been a “teachable” historical experience of the first magnitude, and the Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center’s multiple dedicated websites on eugenics, put up in 2000 in conjunction with the Human Genome Project, remains a prime source for students worldwide who wish to read and ponder the excursion into eugenics. http://www.dnalc.org/view/15740-Eugenics-Record-Office.html. Similarly, the project that culminated in the 2008 publication of Davenport’s Dream represented a desire of academics at the Laboratory and elsewhere, worldwide, to come to grips with all aspects of the pertinent historical record; contributors to that volume include several professors who teach in the Ph.D. program at CSHL’s Watson School of Biological Sciences, as well as professors from Stony Brook University; The University of Washington, Seattle; UC Irvine; The National Institute of Mental Health; the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Cambridge University; the NYU School of Law; and University College, London. The Laboratory, in short, feels it is absolutely essential to study and understand the eugenics movement in all of its aspects, including its bases of institutional support, among these the precursor institutions of the present-day Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

I myself would favor placing a paragraph such as the one below in the Wikipedia entry for the Eugenics Record Office; or such text might appear as a footnote in our compromise “history” paragraph, to bring the record up to date.

In 1996, Dr. James D. Watson, Nobel laureate and at the time Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, published a 20-page historical essay in the :Laboratory’s Annual Report directly addressing the legacy of Davenport, the ERO and eugenics [FN 1:, below] Watson specifically noted that Davenport’s :“conclusions went far beyond his facts,” and observed generally that the use of scientific data in support of explicitly political ends is an :invitation to disaster. In a separate effort, in 2000, The DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in conjunction with the Human :Genome Project, compiled and posted to the web an uncensored educational archive composed of several thousand primary documents and photographs, :enabling students to freely explore the dark episode in the history of science that eugenics represents.

[FN 1: James D. Watson, "Genes and Politics," reprinted in Davenport's Dream, op. cit., pp. 1-34.]

Sincerely, Peter J. Tarr, Ph.D. Saber79 (talk) 20:03, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Dr Tarr -- before saying anything else, let me first reiterate the warning that I placed at User talk:Saber79 about sharing user accounts. This is a violation of Wikipedia policy. If you wish to continue editing, please create your own account -- it only takes a moment.
Moving on to the content discussion at hand, I will allow other editors to review the discussion, with specific attention paid to
  1. whether to call Laughlin an assistant or an acolyte, keeping in mind the description of Laughlin as deputy in this reference (page 227, second full paragraph).
  2. whether to characterize the ERO as part of the SEE or merely adjacent to it, again based on the same paragraph in the same reference as above.
Personally, I believe that the SEE's close ties to the ERO, both in terms of location and key personnel, created, if not an actual connection, an appearance of connection that lent credence to the positions of the ERO, and that any attempt to disconnect the two entities denies this basic fact.
I invite comment from other editors. I will post notices at relevant WikiProjects, and a request for third party review. WikiDan61ChatMe!ReadMe!! 20:22, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Watson controversy[edit]

In the graf about Watson, the first reference to the controversy said he spoke to "The Times". I clarified this to The Times, which is what the James Watson article says, but I see lower in the same graf it says The Sunday Times, which was (maybe still is) a separate newspaper. Which is it? Either way, it's still unnecessarily confusing, given that a reader has to follow the links to find out that the newspaper being referred to is the one whose nameplate reads "The Times" (or "The Sunday Times") and not the one to which the phrase "The Times" normally refers to in the context of Long Island (i.e., The New York Times). 121a0012 (talk) 20:37, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

March 21, 2014 edits -- Note of intention from the editor (Historian78)[edit]

I’m writing to establish contact with editors who have an interest in the Wikipedia page for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. This should include editors who are concerned with ongoing Wiki projects on “Genetics”; “History of Science”; “Long Island” and “National Register of Historic Places” Also, editors interested in “Eugenics” and the “American Eugenics Movement” might be interested, as well as those interested in biology, genetics, and molecular biology. I have been working on edits for the page and wanted to make clear who I am and what my relationship is with CSHL. It is important that you understand the purpose of these edits, which is to factually describe CSHL’s history and current operations. I am an employee of CSHL; my title is Senior Science Writer. I have two primary functions. One is to interview faculty members who publish new research; read and study their work; and write about it so that non-scientists – mainly, other writers -- can understand what has been done. My other function is to perform historical research for the Laboratory and occasionally to write about important science and scientists who have made notable contributions. I have a Ph.D. in History from Cornell University; I am an active historian, focusing on early-20th century U.S. history; and I am also an employee of the University of Pennsylvania, where I teach non-fiction writing in the Center for Programs in Creative Writing. I state my affiliations up front. I thoroughly endorse the effort being made within the Wikipedia/Wikimedia community to clarify and make it possible to assess those who write or edit on subjects related to their employment. In keeping with the “Terms of use/Paid contribution amendment” page [1]: I receive a salary from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. As my other affiliations and accreditations should indicate, I am also a trained U.S. historian, still practicing; and a university teacher. My interest in offering edits of the CSHL Wikipedia page is not motivated by the desire to advertise or promote. I am a “good-faith editor.” My interest is in facts; specifically, in adding facts to the current entry in order to provide a fuller, more contextualized account. I note the discussion in the “Paid contributions” document of “GLAM”: contributors who work at galleries, libraries, archives and museums. I agree that it is important for the community to be able to benefit from the expertise that employees of such institutions can offer. As an academic, I offer contributions to the CSHL page in similar good faith. There are situations in which individuals who know an institution best can make important contributions – the main qualifier being that such contributions must be both factual and supported with citations. I follow this practice, standard in my academic field of History. Here is a brief sketch of what I hope to add to the current CSHL page: [inserted last week & today] 1. Add additional contextual and factual information to the 2 introductory paragraphs [submitted last week]; 2. Add a new section, “Research programs,” that provides accurate figures on employees and a fuller account of the Laboratory’s current research programs – there is currently no detail at all. 3. Add a section outlining “Education programs.” The current page uses “Meetings and Courses” as a placeholder for such information – which is factually misleading and represents only a fraction of the actual program. 4. Add 1 paragraph on “Funding” – sources of; and % apportionment of funds within the five main research areas. In the near future, I intend to edit the History section as follows (I encourage discussion): Add detail to the “History” section as follows: Divide the history into “Early history” and “Post-World War Two history.” (or, “Modern history”) The Laboratory was very important in both periods, in different ways. Its role in eugenics research should be both amplified and properly contextualized. Its postwar history is not described in organized fashion on the current Wikipedia page. I have organized and added to the existing copy. In the Post-WWII section, the Laboratory’s early role as one of the incubators of the entire field of molecular genetics, and subsequently molecular biology, is not described in the current page. The account, from a History-of-Science-point-of-view is impoverished. Recent achievements are not mentioned in coherent fashion and are not up to date on the current page. 6. I have written 3 paragraphs on “CSHL Leadership,” which explains the role of James D. Watson – correcting factual errors in the current version and adding detail; and adding the contribution of Bruce Stillman, who has been Director of the Lab since 1993. This information does not appear in the current CSHL page. Historian78 (talk) 18:18, 21 March 2014 (UTC)