Robley C. Williams

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Robley Cook Williams
Born(1908-10-13)October 13, 1908
DiedJanuary 3, 1995(1995-01-03) (aged 86)
Alma materCornell University
Known forwork with Tobacco mosaic virus
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Michigan
University of California, Berkeley
InfluencesRalph Walter Graystone Wyckoff
Wendell Stanley

Robley Cook Williams (October 13, 1908 – January 3, 1995) was an early biophysicist and virologist. He served as the first President of the Biophysical Society.


Williams attended Cornell University on an athletic scholarship, completing a B.S. in 1931 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1935. While at Cornell, he was selected for membership in the Telluride House and the Quill and Dagger society. Williams began his career as a researcher as an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan, and from 1945, associate professor of physics. A growing fascination with viruses led him to leave Michigan in 1950, when he was invited to the University of California, Berkeley by Wendell Stanley, to serve as a professor at the newly created Department of Virology.[1]


Together with Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat, Williams studied the Tobacco mosaic virus, and showed that a functional virus could be created out of purified RNA and a protein coat. That same year, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Williams was involved in the early use of electron micrography in biology.[2] Working with Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff he helped develop a technique to take three-dimensional electron microscope images of bacteria using a "metal shadowing" technique. He also helped develop biophysical techniques such as freeze etching and particle-counting by the spray-drop technique.[3]


His son, Robley C. Williams, Jr., is a professor emeritus of biological science at Vanderbilt University.

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ Biophysical Society biography
  2. ^ Williams in Linus Pauling papers. [1]
  3. ^ Biophysical Society biography
  4. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Edward Longstreth Medal 1939 Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2011.