Delbruck, Max (1906-1981)

 Digital Record
Identifier: 455
Delbruck, Max (1906-1981)


  • 1957 - 1995

Notes about Access to this Collection

All collections are subject to applicable VUMC privacy and confidentiality policies.

Reproduction Rights

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Historical or Biographical Note

Max Delbruck was born in Berlin in 1906. He studied physics in Gottinger, from 1926 to 1929, at the time of the excitement generated by the development of quantum mechanics. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1930, Delbruck went to Copenhagen as a post-doctoral fellow in Niels Bohr's laboratory. In 1932 he became assistant to Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin.

Max Delbruck came to the United States in 1937 and joined the Vanderbilt Department of Physics in 1940. Dr. Delbruck was at Vanderbilt seven years, based in the Department of Physics and doing his research in the Department of Biology. He was a scientist with an unusual combination of skills in mathematical physics and an interest in applying his knowledge to the borderland between biology and physics. From the mid- 1930s to the mid-1950s he provided the ideological and spiritual fountainhead for the discipline that would eventually call itself molecular biology.

In 1940 Delbruck met Salvadore Luria an Italian refugee working at Indiana University, with whom he began a productive collaboration on bacteriophages. Their paper Mutations of Bacteria from Virus Sensitivity to Virus Resistance (1943) is generally acknowledged to signal the birth of microbial genetics. Delbruck and Luria were later joined by Hershey, and jointly they received the Nobel prize in 1969.

In 1947 Dr. Delbruck approached the Graduate Dean at Vanderbilt with a request to set up a molecular biology department. He requested an amount greater than the total budget of Vanderbilt's Natural Science Division, and the request could not be funded. He then went to California Institute of Technology, the institution with which most molecular biologists associate his name. Max Delbruck died in 1981.

Language of Materials



Biographical file includes presentation notes, academic journal articles, obituary, bibliography, magazine articles, event program, and other biographical information.

Repository Details

Part of the VUMC Historical Images and Biographies Repository

Eskind Biomedical Library
2209 Garland Ave.
Nashville TN 37232


About this Site

This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

Each finding aid contains a link to request materials from the collections. Collections can also be requested by emailing the repository directly through the library website. Each repository has its own location, hours, and contact information. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository’s reading room. In many cases, the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.