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The Jackson Laboratory Historical Archives


Fay Lawson has seen the Lab from several perspectives: as a research assistant to Tibby Russell, a graduate student and later college professor viewing Jax from the outside, and now, as a part-time Lab administrator. This interview, in its two quite different halves, reflects these different phases in Lawson's interaction with the Lab. When she is drawing on her early years of working at the Lab in the mid-50's, Lawson provides some of the most vivid and funny anecdotes in this collection, especially vignettes of Tibby Russell (e.g. Tibby having fallen in the snow with mice allover her, wearing her tattered lab coat, looking like a cleaning lady) and recollections of Lab social events (e.g. mouse races and the "Lab Lovelies" softball team). Lawson clearly here has an eye for the vivid scene that recaptures the essence of Lab esprit. After Lawson left Jax to go on to graduate school, and then to a twenty-year career in college teaching and administration, the anecdotes are fewer. We are provided with memorable material on Barbara Sanford's entry into science, as Lawson's classmate at Brown under Herman Chase. When I began to ask some of the more penetrating questions about Jackson Lab's identity, mission etc., Lawson switched over to her Lab administrator mode, and produced a PR piece. The last c. 30 minutes of this tape would bear out David Harrison's observation that the Lab mentality does not handle intellectual aggression very comfortably. Value this tape for its wonderful anecdotes, which go far toward providing a sense of the Lab's earlier years, but do not look here for much objective analysis.

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