Collection Finding Aid


Guide to the Jane S. Richardson Interview, 2007 (OH.RICHARDSONJ)


Jane S. Richardson is a James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry. She is known for her work with protein structures.

Contains CD and transcript of an oral history interview with Jane S. Richardson. Major subjects in this interview include Richardson's work with her husband in the Dept. of Chemistry at MIT and the Dept. of Biochemistry at Duke University Medical Center, including her work with protein structures and her ribbon drawings. This interview was conducted on 9 November 2007 by Jessica Roseberry.

Descriptive Summary

Call Number
Jane S. Richardson Oral History Interview
November 9, 2007
Duke University. Medical Center. Archives.
1 2 .25 record storage box item linear feet
Duke University Medical Center Archives

Series Quick Links

Collection Overview

Contains audiotapes and transcript of an oral history interview with Jane S. Richardson, James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry.

Restrictions on Access & Use

Some collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Contents of the Collection

1. Interview, November 9, 2007

Interview Topics Sponsorship: Jane S. Richardson talks about her background; her interest in astronomy; her interest in philosophy; working in the same lab where her husband, Dr. David Richardson, was getting his PhD; in 1969, the laboratory solving the structure of the Staphylococcal nuclease, the tenth protein structure to be determined; her enjoyment of being unknown; working as a technician in the laboratory; what the structure of a protein might tell about that protein; solving the crystal structure of copper/zinc superoxide dismutase at Duke; learning about the geometry of the active site of this enzyme; the significance of knowing the structure of proteins; X-ray crystallography as the technique used then and still used to solve protein structures; the current worldwide Protein Data Bank, which stores about fifty thousand protein structures; her work as a technician; working on computer models of proteins as early as 1960s; current work of the Richardson lab: building tools for determining and analyzing RNA structure; all-atom contact analysis; other people at Duke currently actively working on protein structure, although not the Richardson lab; Jane Richardson being most noted for ribbon drawings of proteins; ribbon drawings outlining the schematics of all known protein structures in 1980; she and her husband not being able to be in the same department due to nepotism rule at the time; creating a uniform set of conventions for the protein ribbon drawings; the freedom to do this work because she was "invisible"; Duke giving her tenure when she became a member of the National Academy of Sciences; common structures depicted in the ribbon drawings; subjectivity of representing protein structures because she outlined the conventions of the drawings; the ubiquitous nature of the ribbon drawings due to computer graphics; current use of the same conventions; her original method of drawing on top of a computer printout of a very simplified protein structure; the laboratory's invention of Kinemages, one of the first molecular graphics systems available on personal computers; the current size of the laboratory; Duke in the 1970s; Dr. Robert Hill; women as being "on the edges" of the department; her own unusual career track; not getting a PhD; this fact embarrassing the university once she became well-known; receiving a MacArthur Fellowship because of the ribbon drawings; her own circuitous route as being useful; the collaborative nature of her work with her husband; the difficulty in current scientific culture of collaborating, since the tenure emphasis is on receiving credit for something; change in the nepotism rule; pairs of scientists; the connectivity of the current field due to computers; pressure as one result of connectivity; and her enjoyment of having many female colleagues currently. The transcription of this interview was made possible by a grant from the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation.

Master CD, November 9, 2007
Box Master (CDs) 1
Use CD, November 9, 2007
Box Use (CDs) A
Transcript, November 9, 2007
Box Transcripts 6

Biographical Note

Richardson grew up in Teaneck, N.J., and received her BA in philosophy in 1962 and her MA and MAT from Harvard in 1966. Although she does not have a formal PhD, she has been given three honorary doctorates, from Swarthmore College (1986), the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (1994), and the University of Richmond in Virginia (2003). From 1966 to 1969 she was a technical assistant in the Department of Chemistry at MIT, where her husband, David Richardson, was studying to get his PhD with Professor Albert F. Cotton. In 1969, they solved the crystal structure of Staphylococcal nuclease. They spent a year at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and then came to Duke in 1970, where she was a associate in the Department of Anatomy until 1984, a medical research assistant in the Department of Biochemistry until 1988, and a medical research associate professor in the Department of Anatomy until 1991, when she became a James B. Duke Professor in the Department of Biochemistry. Richardson's most noted accomplishment has been her ribbon drawings outlining protein structures, first published in 1981. The drawings have been used widely in computer adaptations, and her 1981 paper continues to be cited. Jane and David Richardson have worked together in their lab to figure out the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules. The Richardson Lab was a pioneer in the field of protein de novo design as well as Mage and kinemages, early molecular graphics systems. Jane and David Richardson have been able to learn a great deal about aspects that affect the 3-D shape of proteins and how the 3-D shape affects the behavior of proteins. They have also designed and made synthetic proteins. These synthetic proteins reveal a great deal about how natural proteins work. Jane Richardson is a MacArthur Fellow, a member of the Institute of Medicine, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of numerous awards.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Jane S. Richardson Interview, Duke University Medical Center Archives.

Acquisitions Information

Acquired; 9 November 2007.

Processing Information

Processed by Jessica Roseberry, June 2008 Encoded by Dawne Howard Lucas, September 2008

Related Material

The following interviews are also included as part of the Women in Duke Medicine Oral History Exhibit and can be found on the Duke University Medical Center Archives' website: the Nancy Allen interview (10 November 2006); the Sezer Aksel interview (13 September 2007); the William G. Anlyan interview (20 June 2007); the Marianne Breslin interview (12 June 2007); the Rebecca H. Buckley interview (19 February 2007); the Elizabeth Bullitt interview (18 October 2005); the Rebecca Clayton interview (15 March 2007); the Kathleen Clem interview (26 June 2007); the Sheila Counce-Nicklas interview (21 June 2007); the E. Harvey Estes interview (25 June 2007); the Irwin Fridovich interview; the Edward Halperin interview (29 May 2007); the Doris Howell interview (12 November 2007); the Samuel L. Katz interview (10 May 2007); the Gale McCarty interview (29 June 2007); the Philip Pearce interview (25 May 2007); the Lois Pounds interview (3 July 2007); the Elizabeth Pulley interview (30 January 2007); the Jane Richardson interview (9 November 2007); the Jean Spaulding interview (3 October 2006); the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans interviews (27 July 2006 and 2 August 2007); the Frances Widmann interview (28 November 2007); the Catherine Wilfert interview (25 August 2006); the Hilda Willett interview (21 May 2007); the Joanne A. P. Wilson interview (24 May 2007); the Ruby Wilson interview (14 September 2007); and the James Wyngaarden interview (17 October 2007).