Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date



Interview, Jackson Laboratory, History, Scientists, Transcript, Susan Mehrtens

JAX Location

The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine

JAX Source

The Jackson Laboratory Historical Archives


Susan Mehrtens' Note:

George Snell's quiet voice and calm demeanor contrasted sharply with the background atmosphere of our taping session: constant interruptions from visitors, the telephone and a very solicitous spouse, and, on top of all this, a lengthy thunderstorm. George remained unperturbed, but he may have been distracted, and this may account for the anecdotal thinness of this tape. Despite his c. 40 years at Jax, Snell provides little here of the colorful vignette. He does recall his early days, living in a tent on the Lab grounds, and the locals' referring to the Lab as the "mouse house;" he also offers pictures of C.C. Little and the enjoyment they had. in Lab parties, their games with the mice, and the family atmosphere that provided moral support through the lean Depression years. Never is the issue of administrative transition raised, nor does Snell get deeply into the technical areas of his histocompability work, for which he won the Nobel Prize. There is no incisive or objective look at the Lab, its merits or failings. Snell's description of the phases of his retirement and the Lab's retirement policy is poignant. For him, as for so many Lab employees, the Jax has been a central focus of his life. It was obviously painful to be forced to layoff his assistants when his grants were cut solely on the basis of his age, and retirement status. Snell's veracity is reliable, but the distractions may have affected his concentration. Supplement this tape with others, e.g. the Clark~Robbins-Salisbury tape, of a more anecdotal nature for a good picture of the Lab in its early years.