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March 21, 1951

“This is the first day of Spring, an inappropriate time for a lecture, so I will try to appeal to the senses instead of the intellect,” said pioneering microbiologist René Dubos, speaking on “The Living Earth and Its Microbial Alchemy.” Passing from the sensory impressions of microbial activity in springtime—the fresh “earth” smell, faint phosphorescences, bubbles in a pond—to the many new uses for micro-organisms in fields ranging from pharmaceuticals to brewing beer, Dr. Dubos, from the Rockefeller Instiute for Research, said that they all arose from the same truth: for every type of organic substance there is in nature a type of microbe that will attack and break down that substance.

Writing in The Miscellany News, Barbara Butterworth ’54 said, “Dr. Dubos concluded his informative talk by predicting a great future for enzymes, which do the work in chemical processes, and for man, who is learning more each day about the basic material of the earth—micro-organisms.”

The French-born American microbiologist—winner in 1948 of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and, for his influential book So Human an Animal (1968), the 1969 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction—spoke at Vassar again in April 1953, October and December 1956, February 1959, April 1968 and February 1972.

The Years