The consulting files, patent files and correspondence, and a selection of working papers, general correspondence, and biographical
papers of the biochemist William J. Dreyer, known as the William J. Dreyer Papers in the California Institute of Technology
Archives. A specialist in molecular immunology, Dreyer was professor of biology at Caltech from 1963 until his death in 2004.
At Caltech he was involved in the creation of a series of automated instruments for high-sensitivity protein sequencing. He
held over 20 patents and was influential in the creation of the biotechnology industry.
William Jakob Dreyer was born in Michigan and raised in Wisconsin and Oregon, with extended periods of visiting in Norway,
his father's homeland. He attended Reed College (BA 1952) and the University of Washington (PhD in biochemistry, 1956). Early
in his career he became interested in the molecular basis of development and heredity, and he also pioneered instruments that
automated chemical analyses. After a period at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he worked with C. Anfinsen,
G. Streisinger, and M. Nirenberg, he took a professorial appointment at Caltech in the biology division in 1963. His early
work at Caltech centered on investigations of genetic coding for protein structure using immunological techniques. He proposed
that genes could be reshuffled to provide additional information for the formation of proteins. With Leroy Hood and later
Michael Hunkapillar he worked on the design of an automated protein sequencer and was associated with the founding of the
company Applied Biosystems. Dreyer also consulted with many other biotech companies and held upwards of 20 patents on biochemical
apparatus and processes. He maintained a life-long interest in the human brain and how genes program behavior. Dreyer was
an early member of Caltech's innovative Beckman Institute and an enthusiastic promoter of computer imaging for biological
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