Biography of
Franklin M. Harold

My early years

I was born in 1929 into a Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany. My parents watched the rise of Hitler with mounting alarm, and took timely action.

We left Germany in 1933 and ended up in Palestine, at that time part of the British Empire. So I grew up in Nahariyah, a pioneer farming village on the Mediterranean coast. The colorful Middle East, with its diverse peoples and cultures, abundant remains of antiquity and endless complexities, made a deep impression that I have never outgrown. In 1947 we moved to the United States for both personal and political reasons, and settled in New York City.

Pursuing my passion for chemistry

By then I had acquired a passion for chemistry. I enrolled in the evening session at the City College of New York, while working laboratory jobs in the daytime.

Graduating in 1952 with a BS in chemistry, I went west to graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. Home base was the laboratory of I.L. Chaikoff in the physiology department, and my thesis concerned the degradation sterols to bile acids in the rat. However, as a student in the program for Comparative Biochemistry, I came under the influence of pioneers of what we now know as molecular biology, and especially of the microbiologist Roger Stanier. Equally momentous was the influence of a graduate student in microbiology, Ruth Catsiff, who became my wife and partner in the art of science, and the art of living.

Graduating with a Ph.D. in 1955 I promptly morphed into a microbial physiologist, quite undeterred by my lack of any qualifications in that field, and that remains my professional affiliation. I served for two years in the US Army, two more as a postdoc with Hershel K. Mitchell at Cal Tech, and in 1959 (age 30) I landed my first professional position, in charge of my own laboratory and research program.

Professional Positions as a Research Scientist

The National Jewish Hospital and Research Center in Denver, Colorado, was a somewhat eccentric place, a medical institution hospitable to fundamental science. I was encouraged to develop a program guided entirely by my own academic interests, and took full advantage of that rare privilege. Concurrently I held teaching appointments at the University of Colorado Medical Center, ending up as Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Genetics. Ruth joined the laboratory early on. For nearly four decades she carried out her own projects, and supplied stability and continuity as postdocs, students and technicians came and went. Eventually an administrative earthquake made National Jewish uncongenial and we moved to Colorado State University (1989), where we remained until retirement (1994) and beyond. We moved to the Seattle area in 2000. Though fully retired now, I remain engaged in science as a writer, lecturer and philosopher without a license.

Some of my experiences and reflections on science and the world in general have been recounted in an autobiography (To Make the World Intelligible: A Scientist's Journey, Friesen Press, Victoria, B.C., 2016).