About J.Herbert Taylor

Dr. J. Herbert Taylor was director of the Institute for Molecular Biophysics and recipient of the highest honor Florida State University can bestow upon its faculty: the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor award. Taylor’s career spanned more than 50 years, during a time of phenomenal change in the fields of genetics and cell biology. He was among a group of 16 scientists who founded the American Society of Cell Biology in 1960. He published more than 100 papers on chromosome structure and reproduction. In recognition of a lifetime of work, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1977. The methods Taylor developed with his wife and colleague Shirley Taylor revolutionized the study of chromosomes. As stated in the dedication of the 2006 Cold Spring Harbor Press text book on DNA Replication: “Taylor comes as close as anyone to being the father of the field.”

Taylor’s major research accomplishments:

  • 1953: After convincing Philip Woods and Walter Hughes at the Brookhaven National Laboratory to develop high-specific-activity tritiated thymidine, Taylor had the tool he needed to carry out the majority of his seminal studies, and a tool used by thousands of scientists to this day.
  • 1956: Only three years after Watson and Crick solved the structure of DNA, Taylor elucidated the mechanism by which chromosomes duplicate themselves (semi-conservative, anti-parallel DNA replication).
  • 1960: Taylor demonstrated that different segments of chromosomes duplicate at different times during the cell division cycle and that their order of replication is related to the activity of genes, suggesting that replication may be different in different cell types.
  • 1965: Taylor demonstrated that chromosomes exchange genetic information during the production of sperm and egg (meiosis).
  • 1967: Taylor showed that different segments of chromosomes are located in specific compartments in the cell nucleus.
  • 1977: Taylor demonstrated that cells can choose from among many sites at which to begin the process of DNA replication, and suggested that these choices are important to maintaining the integrity of the genetic information.