Oleg Jardetzky, professor emeritus of molecular pharmacology at Stanford University School of Medicine and former director of the Stanford Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, discusses his role in the establishment and maturation of the field of medical and biological nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). He also recalls the circumstances that led him from Yugoslavia to the United States and his historical research into his family’s genealogy.
He begins the interview explaining how his parents, Russian émigrés, left Yugoslavia for Austria after World War II and the scholarship that brought him to Macalester College in Minnesota. From there he describes his medical and PhD education at the University of Minnesota and his involvement with early NMR protein structure research. He traces his professional track from Minnesota to Caltech to Harvard Medical School to executive positions in industry at Merck Therapeutic Research. He explains how he started the first biological and medical NMR laboratory at Harvard, describing the lab’s funding and how isotopic substitution was used to determine molecular structures.
Jardetzky gives a detailed account of his first turbulent years in the Pharmacology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine and offers insights into the department’s politics at the time. He describes the initial equipment built for the Stanford Magnetic Resonance Laboratory and how the university used it.
Finally, he ruminates on how his interest in his family’s history led him to genealogy research and the publishing of two books on Polish clans and Russian emigration.