Corn samples

Working with maize at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in the 1940s, Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock did her groundbreaking research on transposons—transposable genetic elements that are popularly called "jumping genes." McClintock found that these mobile pieces of DNA can move from one part of a chromosome to another, affecting the color of the corn kernels. When she first presented her work in 1951 at a Cold Spring Harbor meeting, McClintock was met with stony silence. Today, her research is considered central to understanding how genes work. You can read more about McClintock at

"Cold Spring Harbor Lab had a longstanding history in plant research, and obviously, with Barbara McClintock, it has a really strong history in maize genetics. Cold Spring Harbor has always has had multiple maize geneticists.

Corn samples"Corn has been a model organism for many, many years. It was one of the earlier genetic model systems, and one of the great advantages of corn was an enormous amount of diversity that had been collected over multiple years.


Corn samples

"One of the great things about corn is that after you've done pollination the ear will grow 3 to 400 kernels, sometimes even more, and each kernel is the result of a different genetic cross. In the endosperm, the soft tissue that you eat, a lot of genes are expressed. Just by looking at a single ear, you can immediately analyze 3 to 400 offspring visually. I think that made it very useful for geneticists early on."
—Marja Timmermans, plant geneticist and research fellow at CSHL

"The stuff in here is a library, a catalog of all of the current research that’s been done here. We have some of Dr. McClintock's corn in here that’s 30 years old. The viability might be reduced, but it still has a better chance of germinating and growing.

—Tim Mulligan, manager of Uplands Farm

Corn samples "Dr. McClintock could understand things that most people couldn’t understand. She came up with theories that at the time were not fully understood by her peers. She knew she was right. She knew that eventually people would catch up to her and figure out that she was right. She just took it in stride and continued. Maybe she turned a little more introverted. But eventually people started to realize what she was doing was correct, and they started seeking her out.

"Her work was not appreciated fully until her career was winding down. If we had recognized that brilliance early on, maybe more would have come from her. They caught up with her much later, and she won her Nobel. Now there are people who come here to do research with corn, and they’re still doing some of the techniques that she used."

—Tim Mulligan, manager of Uplands Farm


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