In 1928, the Rockefeller Foundation established a natural sciences division headed by University of Wisconsin mathematics professor Warren Weaver. Weaver encouraged collaboration among biologists, chemists, mathematicians, and medical researchers, and eventually coined the term molecular biology to describe the emerging experimental field that he made a priority for Rockefeller funding from 1933 onward.
The foundation supported individual investigators as well as universities, almost singlehandedly rooting this new field of science, and incubating some of the greatest discoveries of twentieth-century science. In the words of Duke University researchers, Rockefeller’s funding under Warren Weaver “would come to have a profound impact on the development of the sciences for many decades,” and become one of the most widely recognized examples of a foundation redirecting the course of intellectual discovery in a constructive way.
- George Beadle, “The Role of Foundations in the Development of Modern Biology,” in U.S. Philanthropic Foundations (Harper & Row, 1967)
- Duke University case study, cspcs.sanford.duke.edu/sites/default/files/descriptive/development_of_molecular_biology.pdf