Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Bruno Zimm Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1941 - 2001
7.60 linear feet
(19 archives boxes)
Abstract: Papers of Bruno Zimm, inventor, educator, and polymer DNA scientist. Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at University
of California, San Diego, from 1960 to 1991 and professor emeritus after his retirement in 1991. Zimm is known for his work
on understanding the fundamental physical and chemical properties of DNA. His theoretical models helped discover how to measure
the size of DNA molecules and their propensity. The papers include numerous scientific articles published in polymer science
and biophysical chemistry journals and extensive collection of research influenced subject files. The materials also document
his early scientific career with General Electric Company, grant project investigations, and teaching materials in the Department
of Chemistry, which he helped establish in 1960. Additionally the papers include correspondence, laboratory research notebooks,
and biographical materials.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0675
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Bruno Zimm Papers, MSS 0675. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Born in Woodstock, New York, on October 31, 1920, Bruno Hasbrouck Zimm grew up in an artistic household with his father, a
sculptor and his mother, a writer. His education began at Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor's degree of science
in 1941, followed by a master's in 1943, and a Ph.D. in 1944, the latter was under the direction of theoretical chemical physicist,
Joseph Mayer, with Zimm's thesis on the vapor pressures of alkali halides and lattice energies. Toward the end of World War
II, Zimm participated in war-related research on light scattering by smokes under Victor K. LaMer.
After leaving Columbia University, Zimm briefly taught at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he collaborated with polymer
scientist Herman Mark. He joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, for four years (1946-1950),
and taught as visiting faculty at Harvard University. During his tenure at Berkeley, he continued his work on light scattering,
which he had developed while at Brooklyn, and invented the "Zimm Plot" for determining both size and shape factors for large
molecules. He then worked at General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York, for nine years (1951-1960), during
which time he continued to study synthetic polymers.
After a brief period as visiting faculty at Yale University, he accepted a position at the University of California, San Diego
(1960), where he helped establish the Department of Chemistry, along with Joseph Mayer, Stanley Miller, David Bonner, and
Stanley Mills. He remained at UCSD until his death.
After his arrival at UCSD, Zimm began a long-term experimental project to find the true lengths of native DNA molecules.
In order to test these theories, in 1963, he and post-doctoral student Don Crothers devised an apparatus to measure the lengths
of long polymers using the viscosity of solutions, namely a rotating cylinder viscometer, although the device took about ten
years to fully evolve. This research allowed him, with post-doctoral biologist Ruth Kavenoff, to measure for the first time
the size of a DNA molecule in an intact fruit fly chromosome. The research concluded that each chromosome was composed of
a single densely folded DNA molecule. Later on in his research career, he focused on theoretical schemes for the counter-ion
environment around DNA. Zimm also taught courses on macromolecules in the UCSD Department of Chemistry for graduate and undergraduate
Zimm was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958 and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He received numerous honors and awards, including the Bingham Medal of the Society of Rheology in 1960, the American Physical
Society High-Polymer Physics Prize in 1963, and the National Academy's Award in Chemical Sciences in 1981.
Bruno Zimm died on November 26, 2005.
Doolittle, Russell. "Bruno H. Zimm (1920-2005)", PROTEIN SCIENCE, 2006, 15:942-944.
Stockmayer, Walter. "Bruno Zimm on His 65th Birthday", MACROMOLECULES, Volume 18, Number 11, 1985.
Scope and Content of Collection
The papers of Bruno Zimm, prominent biophysical and polymer chemist, document the scientific career of a leading theoretical
inventor and academician in the field of biological and synthetic macromolecules. Well-represented in the collection are
his scientific writings; correspondence with notable colleagues, Joseph Mayer and Walter Stockmayer; and science based research
files. The papers also include materials generated during his tenure at the General Electric Company and, more prominently,
as a founding faculty member of the University of California, San Diego Department of Chemistry. Additional materials include
grant applications and correspondence, laboratory notebooks, and biographical documents.
The papers are arranged in eight series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS BY ZIMM, 3) SUBJECT FILES, 4) GRANT MATERIALS, 5)
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, 6) TEACHING MATERIALS, 7) LABORATORY NOTEBOOKS, and 8) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS.
SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in two subseries: A) Alphabetical and B) Chronological. The first subseries contains
correspondence between Zimm and researchers, colleagues, and various persons in the scientific community. The second subseries
contains chronological correspondence from 1949-1998, generated by Zimm, and includes subsequent response letters.
SERIES 2: WRITING BY ZIMM
The WRITING series includes three subseries: A) Numbered Reprints, B) Unnumbered Reprints, and C) Reviewed By.
A) The Numbered Reprints subseries includes numerically arranged reprints dating from 1944 to 1994.
B) The Unnumbered Writing subseries gathers both published and unpublished manuscripts and reprints not listed with the numbered
reprints. The titles are arranged alphabetically.
C) The Reviewed By subseries, arranged by author's name, contains copies of papers submitted by colleagues for review and
remarked on by Zimm.
SERIES 3: SUBJECT FILES
The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged in three subseries: A) Award Recommendation Letters, B) Research, and C) Drawings.
A) The materials in the Award Recommendation Letters subseries are letters written by Zimm recommending colleagues' accomplishments
for national awards.
B) The Research files subseries, arranged alphabetically, includes source materials related to Zimm's research interests,
including several folders on light scattering theory and electrophoresis projects. The files contain research notes, calculations,
correspondence, and laboratory data.
C) The Drawings subseries represents miscellaneous illustrations and renderings of prototype devices, scientific data charts
SERIES 4: GRANT MATERIALS
The GRANT MATERIALS are grant and patent applications for the UCSD-funded project for the device separator for large polymer
molecules, which Zimm co-investigated with Kenneth Dill, beginning in 1979. The files also include the theoretical light
scattering equation research innovated by Zimm in 1948, and later funded by the Wyatt Technology Corporation to construct
a device to plot the equations in 1986. The materials are arranged alphabetically.
SERIES 5: GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY
The GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY series documents Zimm's early scientific work at the General Electric Research Laboratory as
a physical chemist. The files contain reports and laboratory memos Zimm authored regarding his research into polymer solutions.
The papers are arranged alphabetically by title.
SERIES 6: TEACHING MATERIALS
Zimm helped establish the UCSD Department of Chemistry in 1960 and taught courses in biochemistry and macromolecules until
his retirement in 1991. The files contain curriculum materials such as lecture notes, handouts, exams, and the student laboratory
experiments for the measurements of DNA molecules. The materials are arranged alphabetically by course title.
SERIES 7: LABORATORY NOTEBOOKS
The LABORATORY NOTEBOOKS series consists of notebooks relating to Zimm's research at the General Electric Research Laboratory
from 1950-1958 and in the Department of Chemistry at University of California, San Diego. The early notebooks supported statistical
data reflecting experiments involving methods of determining molecular weights and shapes. His UCSD research diary notebooks
reflect the long-term experimental DNA project utilizing an apparatus to measure the viscosity of solutions. The notebooks
are arranged chronlogically.
SERIES 8: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
Arranged alphabetically, the BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series contains personal history documents including biographies, curriculum
vitae, Columbia University education materials, photographs of Zimm, awards, newspaper articles, miscellaneous memorabilia,
and an interview of Zimm by the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Zimm, Bruno -- Archives
DNA -- Structure
Light -- Scattering