Interviewee: Dr. Sidney Cassin
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
Date: April 24, 2002
P: This is an oral history interview with Dr. Sidney Cassin at his home here in
Gainesville. The address is 1405 NW 35th Way. This is April 24,  and
this is for the J. Hillis Miller medical school oral history project. Sidney, tell me,
first of all, your full name.
C: Sidney Cassin.
P: You don't have a middle name.
P: And where and when were you born?
C: I was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, June 8, 1928.
P: Why Chelsea, Massachusetts? Had your family come there from Europe?
C: My parents.
P: Tell me a little bit about your family.
C: My father came over in 1898 from the Ukraine, Russia, a city called [Ostroh].
He settled in east Boston initially. He became a barber.
P: Had he brought that skill over with him?
C: No, he was something else in Russia. He was only fifteen when he came over.
He was listed as a felsher, which is a physician's assistant. This is what he was
in Russia, or the Ukraine. When he got to the United States he took up
barbering and had a shop in East Boston for a number of years [until about
1920]. Then moved to Revere, Massachusetts where he also had a shop and
from there moved to Chelsea [about 1924]. I can't give you the exact dates. I'd
have to look them up. My mother came over [in 1914], something like that. She
came over after he did. I was the offspring in Chelsea of that marriage.
P: Do you have siblings?
C: I had five brothers and two sisters.
P: Big family then.
C: Yes, and the only one left now is the youngest guy next to me. He's probably
your age. My brother Phil is still alive and he is eighty-four.
P: Where were you in that list?
C: I was the youngest of the whole family. So they're all gone except for the two of
P: So, you were born in Chelsea, you went to school in Chelsea.
C: I went to Chelsea High School then went off to New York University.
P: Before you get to the college, let's talk about your growing up years in Chelsea.
You went to high school.
C: I went to grade school and high school in Chelsea.
P: Were you a good student?
C: I think so, yes.
P: Were sciences always one of your interests going back to grade school and high
P: So you're really the fruition of those early years.
C: Right. There were a number of things that influenced me. One, one of my
brothers was a physician, Benjamin Cassin, who was the only other person in the
family [who] went to college besides me. He was approximately eighteen years
older than I am. He went to Harvard undergraduate school. He graduated from
there [in] 1927. Then, he went to Tufts medical school. He set up practice, first
in Maine, then he came to Chelsea. During the time that he was in Chelsea, we
were very close. I used to spend a lot of time with him, traveling with him,
helping him with his bag, up three or four flights of stairs. Physicians then were
very different than they are now, there were house calls. I used to take care of
his phone, take care of his kids because I was a little older than they were, when
he and his wife would go off to a theater or something. He had a tremendous
influence on me. My father was a barber, who was rather a rigid, typical
Russian father who insisted that I do what he wanted, not make too much noise,
and just take it easy, do [well] in school. He and my mother were both unable to
read English very well. Neither of them had gone to school in this country, so
they couldn't help me with anything at all. Everything I did in school, I did on my
own. In other words, never any help at all at home. When my brother showed
up on the scene, he wasn't able to help me either because he was busy. He
would always advise me and take me with him wherever he went. Trips, fishing,
this that and the other, we were quite close. He died in 1965. By then we were
here in Gainesville. His initial influence on me was science and medicine.
P: You were thinking along these lines very early in life.
P: Did you grow up in a religious household?
C: My parents were...I wouldn't say they were very religious, they were probably
conservative, between conservative and orthodox. My mother kept strictly
kosher. They were strictly kosher. I never had anything other than kosher food
up until the time I got to college. My father was always busy with his
barbershop. He couldn't go to services on Saturday [because that was his
busiest day], he couldn't go Friday night because Friday night he was in the shop
late. On Saturday, he was in the shop all day and all night, until 8:00 or 9:00
barbering. High holidays were the things that we observed. I used to go to
services then and with my brother.
P: Was your family of limited financial support for you? Did you work in high
C: Yes, my parents were unable to support me, period. Again, this is an attitude I
think I derived from my brother Ben. He worked his way through Harvard and
he worked his way through Tufts. One of the ways he did it, he worked at the
Post Office, sorting mail and delivering mail. How he did it, I don't know
because that was tough as hell back then. There weren't very many Jewish
boys admitted to Harvard undergraduate school. I guess I got my first job when
I was [eleven] years old delivering newspapers. I worked in Chelsea, we lived in
an apartment complex. There was a grocery store underneath the flat that we
lived in. Let me tell you, first, that Chelsea was heavily populated with Jewish
people. We had [approximately] twelve synagogues. The city size was one
square mile and I think we had 40,000 people, most of them Jewish, so there
were synagogues on every corner and a lot of kosher butcher shops and things
of this sort. Ffrom my newspaper job, [I] took a job with Bessie and Barney
Gitletz in the grocery store beneath my house as a delivery boy [when I was
twelve-years-old]. I delivered food for him. He had a truck [in which] I would
pack stuff and I delivered them all over the city. From there, I sort of went
upscale and got a job in a drugstore near my house as a soda jerk. I worked
there for a couple of years while going to school. When I got to [junior] high
school, one of my home-room instructors, a fellow named Julie Goldman, sort of
took an interest in me. He and another fellow in that same room by the name of
Aaron Kipnes decided that here was a poor kid who needed some help.
Goldman told me about his father-in-law who owned a store in the Boston area
called Superior Clothing. It was a wholesale [and] retail, men's clothing [store].
He said, look, you don't want to work in the drugstore for the rest of your life.
Why don't you take a job with my father-in-law? He arranged for me to get this
job in Boston in the wholesale clothing district. I got the job with them, I guess
when I was... it was about ninth grade in school. It was the kind of job that paid
$20 a week during the school year. I used to go in to work after school from
about 2:30 until 5:00. So that was very good. This is in the 40s. That was a
very good salary for me.
P: Sure, that was a good salary.
C: In the summertime, I worked full-time, forty hours a week for the same $20. Mr.
Hellman had a deal. Nevertheless, what I did there was, pack and ship clothing
to various places in the Northeast for Hellman and Silverman who owned the
company. On Saturdays I was permitted to come out from [the] shipping area
and sell clothes. I used to sell men's suits and boy's trousers and men's
trousers and this sort of thing. It was a very interesting job. The people were
very nice, they were terrific people, Hellman, Silverman, and the secretaries who
worked there. They were all great and they all looked out for this young kid from
Chelsea. I don't know why, but they did. They did everything that they possibly
could to make me feel at home there. That was a nice job, I enjoyed going in.
P: Sidney, how did the Depression impact your family?
C: In a bad way. Do you want me to finish this part of the story?
P: Go ahead yes.
C: During the time I was working for Superior Clothing, I discovered that I could do
better by getting a job at the Post Office, which my brother Ben had had way
back. So I took a Civil Service exam and did very well on it. At that time, most
of the men in the area were in the service, in the 40s, because of World War II. I
got a job working at the South Postal Station in Boston. Here, I sorted mail. In
the summertime, they would send me off to different post offices around the area.
I would act as a temporary, helping somebody deliver mail. I would deliver mail
in multiple cities, Melrose, Maiden, Revere, Chelsea, elsewhere.
P: How much did you get paid?
C: I was getting paid $1.98 an hour. That was big time. I did that all the way
through high school. When I graduated in 1946, I gave it up.
P: Tell me about the impact the Depression had on your family.
C: During the time that I recall... I was in Chelsea from '28 until '46. Of course the
Depression years were '28, '29, the early 30s. I can remember standing in line
with my mother to pick up bread and milk for the house because we didn't have
it. Haircuts were 15 cents a haircut. I think a shave was 10 cents or
something, maybe 25 cents and 15 cents. The income that my father made
was hardly enough to pay the rent. We never owned a house, we always lived
in an apartment. The apartment that I spent most of my life in was a cold flat.
We had no heat. We had a black coal stove in the kitchen. When my mother
cooked, she put coal in there and we could use that to warm up because you
could open the doors of the black stove and put your feet in when she was
P: That's where you got dressed in the morning.
C: That's where I got dressed in the morning. All the rooms were cold. The room
that I slept in, I had a front bedroom which was right over this grocery store that I
told you about. It looked out on a street called Everett Avenue. The room was
probably about 6 by 10. Small room, had nothing in it except the bed and a
small closet. My father, as I say, was typically Russian. He had the attitude
that fresh air was important. In the middle of the night, when I was under the
covers in this cold room, he would come and open the window. I woke up in the
morning freezing. I guess this is the way he was brought up. As I understand
it, and I have no first hand experience at this, some of my other brothers, when
they lived in Revere, he made them sleep out on the porch, all year long. Three
boys or four boys on the porch... open screen. Covered them up, but it was
healthy for them. Not only that he was a brownie. I don't know if you know what
a brownie is.
C: Brownies are people who swim all year round. He used to swim in the
wintertime in Boston. In fact, there were pictures in the Boston Globe. I'm still
trying to find them. We used to have them. Somebody took them. One of my
brothers, somebody took the pictures, I haven't got them anymore. There were
pictures of him walking [on] Revere [Beach which was a very popular beach].
Walking through the sand, breaking the ice, going in for a swim, wearing one of
these one piece bathing suits with sneakers. He used to belong to this club
called the L Street Club in South Boston where many men would go to swim. I
think they swam in the nude, I'm not sure. It was ice cold, this was freezing
water. They'd go swim every day.
P: To prove their stamina.
C: Yes, this was why he treated us the way he did. There was no fooling around
with him. He had a strap in the house from the barbershop and if you got on his
back about anything at all, off came the strap.
P: No sense of humor?
C: No sense of humor. What else? The impact of the Depression was terrible.
P: What about World War II?
C: World War II, I did not serve in.
P: I know, you were too young for that.
C: I had just turned eighteen.
P: Did the situation with the family change a little bit financially?
C: During World War II, my father was still a barber. I guess he stroked
somewhere around 1943 and he couldn't work. He recovered from the stroke,
but he closed his barbershop and he never opened it again. As I told you by
working at the post office, I actually supported me and helped them. My
brothers all helped them.
P: Were any of your brothers in service?
C: My brother [Ben] went into the Army as a first lieutenant and came out as a
major. He was in the 39th field hospital, 101st [Airborne Division].
P: After high school you go into New York University.
C: That was the other item. I graduated from high school in 1946. In 1946, I had
turned to an eligible age for the draft. I had to sign up for the draft and I was
given a card 1-A. It was indicating that I was too young to serve or some such
nonsense. Anyhow, I didn't have to serve in the armed forces. In 1946 when I
graduated, I decided to apply to Harvard, I applied to Middlebury and I applied to
NYU. I could not apply to Boston University, I could not apply to the University
of Massachusetts, and there were several other schools.
P: Why could you not?
C: Because they were open only to returning G.l.'s. There was this thing...
P: G .I. Bill.
C: People who hadn't served couldn't even get applications. I didn't get into
Harvard, but I got into Middlebury College in Vermont. It's an excellent school.
Small school. I got into NYU. I would have gone to Middlebury, but my brother
got after me and said, look, you're going to be out in the country there. There's
no way you're going to get a job. You're not going to be able to work and
support yourself through school. If I were you, I would go to New York
University and you'll be able to get a job.
P: Which was in New York City, Manhattan.
C: Right, it's in the village.
P: So you leave home.
C: I leave the Mass. area [for the first time in my life]. First time I'm out of that area
all my life. I go to New York City; I was eighteen-years-old. I've never been
away from home before [and now I'm attending college and trying to survive
financially]. It was a difficult situation because I had to support myself. I took
courses at NYU [and earned] a bachelor of arts degree. At that time, I had to
take half of my courses in science and half of my courses in non-science for that
P: Is that degree in 1950?
C: I got my degree in 1950. I got all my science courses, put together sort of
concentrated so I could get them out of the way and I got jobs. We had relatives
in New York and Brooklyn actually, a place called Brownsville, who were relatives
of my mother. When I got to New York and went to NYU, we went to visit these
people. I had never met them before in my life. They sort of decided that they
had to look out for me. They managed to get me a room with a family in
Brownsville which was very inexpensive. I don't remember exactly what it cost.
I was living with an elderly lady in one of the spare bedrooms. It was in a
section of Brownsville, I guess it was Howard Avenue [in] Brownsville. This is
where there were a lot of gang wars and gang fights. I don't know if you ever
read the book the Amboy Dukes, or saw the movie.
P: I know.
C: My other relatives lived on Pitkin Avenue which was also an entirely Jewish area.
It got to the point where I had to commute from there to NYU.
P: NYU is located where?
C: Washington Square.
P: So you had a long commute?
C: It was about an hour [and one half] each way. It was too much, I couldn't take it.
One of my relatives, a lady by the name of Lakey Ginsberg who lived on Pitkin
Ave, had a son who worked for [Curtis] Publishing Company in New York. He
got me a job in the evenings, working for this publishing company. What I did
was bookkeeping for them. I'd go in about 7:00 p.m. and I'd do their
bookkeeping and tally up their costs and expenses [until about midnight]. I did
this for about a year which helped, but I had to move out of Howard Avenue, I
couldn't take it. So one of the things I did when I was at NYU was I joined a
P: I didn't know that you were a TEP.
C: Tau Epsilon Phi [Gamma Chapter].
P: I could have used you a long time ago in TEP.
C: I think you knew it. Through TEP, I met a guy by the name of Sidney Sontag.
P: The bald eagle.
C: The bald eagle lived at the [Alpha Chapter] fraternity house at 115th between
Riverside Drive and Broadway. He had just come out of the service as well.
He was the executive secretary. Sid saw to it that I became house manager. I
was house manager at the TEP house from then, until I graduated. I got free
room and board [and the commute to NYU was about twenty minutes]. Great.
During the time I was there, I gave up the job with Curtis Publishing Company
doing accounting. They gave me another job where I would go in to work only
on Saturday. I would go into work at 4:00 in the morning and I would finish at
4:00 in the afternoon. Curtis Publishing would pick up all of the magazines that
they distributed throughout the city to the various vendors who stood in the street
with these vending carts selling magazines. If they were out of date, they would
give them back to Curtis. Curtis would get all this stuff. I'd tear the front page
off and they'd recycle. I did that for a long time. At the same time, I got a job
working on 42nd Street. I don't know if you're familiar with New York City at all,
or what it was like back then, but 42nd Street was kind of like an amusement
park. I got a job there through a friend of mine.
P: That's before the porno shops came in.
C: There were porno shops there as well. One of the guys living at the fraternity
house was a fellow by the name of Stockwell Everts, a real blue-blood who came
from the Back Bay of Boston. His family [considered him an outcast] because,
instead of going to Harvard, he went to the University of Chicago. He was now
doing graduate work at Columbia. We became friends because I was from
Boston and he was from Boston. I was from Chelsea which is a mile away from
Boston. [Stocky] got me a job in the same [casino where he worked]. I gave
change to people who came in to play Pokereno and gamble [at] these spots.
I'd go in at about 9:00 at night. I'd work through maybe 4:00 or 5:00 in the
P: You had a checkered career.
C: I did. That lasted long enough to help. I then got a job at Carnegie Hall as an
usher and a coat checker. I worked at Carnegie the rest of the time I was in
New York. The family that owned the concessions for this were the Golubs.
They had concessions at Carnegie Hall, the Yiddish Art Theater, Broadway 7th
Ave, and the Mark Hellinger Theater. I could go in there after school every day.
I could either work matinee, or I could work evenings [or both].
P: You saw a lot of wonderful people.
C: I saw all the concerts at Carnegie because I would go [and] check coats. When
the concert started, I would do my homework until I finished it in this little alcove
area where I hung coats and then I would walk out to the main area and listen
to the concerts. That job was fantastic because I worked there and I worked at
all these other places. They would shift me around.
P: You're still at the TEP house.
C: I'm still at the TEP house, yes. I could go down to the Yiddish Art and do this
sort of thing and see Molly [Picon]. I could go to the Mark Hellinger and see
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, [Texas Little Darling, etc.]. I had a fantastic job.
P: You really had it marvelous.
C: But the thing that happened at Carnegie, in addition to working the times that I
did, on the weekends, they had something called Jazz at Carnegie where Harlem
would descend on Carnegie Hall at midnight on Saturday. We'd have Dizzy
Gillespie and all these famous jazz players, Cab Calloway. They'd come and
play and the concerts would run from midnight until 4:00 or 5:00 [Sunday]
morning. I didn't get a lot of sleep.
P: You got a lot of music though.
C: I'd work matinee for the symphony at Carnegie, grab something to eat, come
back, work at night for the evening performance, go out and get something to
eat, come back, and work for the midnight performance.
P: It's a good thing there were a lot of restaurants around Carnegie Hall.
C: Yes. All of the jobs, sort of bundled together, provided enough money for me to
pay my tuition and I had room and board.
P: It's surprising you had enough time to go to school.
C: I didn't get enough sleep, but I went to school. Then there was another job that I
took on, working for [Simon, of Simon and Schuster], a publisher in the Village
who had a three story apartment complex. There was an elevator there and he
needed somebody to come in on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night
to run the elevator for him. [I did this when I wasn't involved with Carnegie.] I
remember on the middle floor, there was a physician by the name of Hellman
who was a brother-in-law of this publisher. In the basement, there was a
brother-in-law also. I think the primary reason they wanted somebody to run the
elevator is because the brother-in-law would have women come into the building
and I would take them downstairs on the elevator so that he could do whatever
he had to do. I used to get paid very well for running the elevator when I worked
P: In the meantime, what kind of a student were you in these undergraduate years?
C: During this time, I managed to eat. When I was not at the fraternity house, the
meals that I got were obtained at the Chock Full of Nuts, which was a concession
throughout the city and the Horn and Hardart Automat. The meals were [very
inexpensive]. I used to eat breakfast for, twenty-five cents.
P: I remember those early years.
C: In fact, the first year I went to school, I got along on $1 for food [per day]. I lost
something like twenty-five pounds or thirty pounds [the first year]. It worked out.
As far as being a student, I guess I was a B student with all this going on.
P: Meanwhile, you're still into the sciences, there's no change.
C: I took the physics, the chemistry, the advanced chemistry, the math.
P: Are you thinking now, as an undergraduate, what you're going to do with all of
C: Yes, I thought at one point that I was going to go to medical school. Then with a
B average, you couldn't get into medical school at that point.
P: Being Jewish didn't help you.
C: No, it didn't help. A number of my friends went over to Switzerland to go to
school because of this problem. Switzerland and Germany. I just couldn't
afford it. I decided I would do something else. In 1950, I graduated from NYU
in 1950 Barbara and I got married. When we first married, I got a job in Boston
at Harvard Medical School, the Beth Israel Hospital, Yamin's research wing
working with a fellow named Paul Zoll who was a cardiologist. I thought if I had
worked at this hospital that it would help me get into medical school. I worked
with Paul Zoll who invented the pace maker. We did all of our experiments there
on piglets and on dogs. I worked on a team with Zoll [and] a thoracic surgeon
Leona Norman I found this the most interesting and amazing thing I'd ever done
in my life. I really got turned on to the research, doing the research. It got to
the point where they let me do some of the surgery. They let me do a lot of the
[technical work] because Zoll was busy seeing patients and Leona was a highly
trained thoracic surgeon. I got involved with them to a very large extent. When
I finished the year there, I decided that I really liked research.
P: Meanwhile you're not a student, you're out of school and you're working.
C: Yes, because Barbara was still in school and I was helping get her through
school. This was 1950 and she graduated from college in 1951, so I worked to
[help us survive]. We lived with her parents in Everett, Massachusetts. Well,
when she finished school, she became an orthoptist [specialist who treats eye
misalignments]. She went to Simmons College and part of the training was at
Simmons and at Harvard Medical School.
P: Where is Simmons?
C: Boston. [Tape interrupted.].
P: So from 1950 to 1952...
C: 1950 to the end of 1951 I worked [at Harvard]. Barbara got her degree in 1951.
She decided, along with me, I was going to go to graduate school. I got into the
University of California.
P: What was your plan to study at wherever you went?
C: Physiology. I wanted to do graduate work in physiology. I had a tremendous
course in physiology at NYU with a fellow named Dr. Sandow.
P: What's his first name?
C: I think it was Alexander. He gave a great course and that was an exciting thing
for me as well.
P: What is physiology?
C: How the body works, how the organs of the body work. So that helped me a
P: So you've never really moved away from high school out of the science areas at
C: No. When I was in college I did, 50 percent of my work was in non-science.
P: I understand.
C: I took philosophy with Sidney Hook. I took three courses with him and he was
fabulous. I took sociology and I took courses in German. In fact, I had a minor
in German. I worked with a fellow named Schuchard who was the head of the
P: Anyway, you decide to do graduate work.
C: And I applied to several schools.
P: Had you given up the idea of going to medical school?
C: I had by then, yes. I gave it up by then.
P: And research was your interest.
C: Right. I got into the University of California.
P: You applied to California and what else? Other schools, in other words?
C: I applied to California, Pennsylvania was the other school, University of
Pennsylvania graduate school. I think there were a couple of others.
P: You had all the grades.
C: Yes, I had to take the Graduate Record Exam. All of that worked well, I got into
the schools. Barbara came along. [She said,] now that I've got my degree, the
only way you're going to get through college is if I make a lot of money. She
looked for the job that paid the most amount of money. She found a job in
Houston, Texas with three ophthalmologists, [Gore, Schultz, and Potts] one of
whom was the chairman of ophthalmology at Baylor Medical School. She went
there to do her orthoptics [an ophthalmic field]. Well, it paid very well. So, I said,
I can't resist, I've got to go. I'll get into school there. If I got into these other
schools, I won't have any trouble getting in. I'll go to Rice, which was an
excellent school. We got to Houston, it was early September....
P: You were admitted to California, but you turned that down.
C: Yes, I turned all of them down. We went to Houston and we got there, I had to
do something. I couldn't go to graduate school right then and there so I got a
job teaching at the University of Houston.
P: Teaching what?
C: Biology, actually it was plant biology and I knew nothing at all about plants.
P: But you had a B.A. degree or a B.S. degree?
C: I had a B.A. degree and the chairman of the department was very nice, he had
just come there from Harvard. His name was Sawin. He was a biologist from
Harvard. He said, look, you don't have to worry about it Sid. You've got a good
background in biology. We'll teach you what the plants are, and all you have to
do is walk around the grounds with all of these elderly women who are taking our
course in identification of plants and trees and tell them what they are. I did that
for about a year. During that time, I decided I'm going to go to Rice. So I apply
to Rice and I went there and had an interview. The president of [Rice] University
at that time, who's name was Houston. [He] looked at my record and he said,
yes, well you can come to graduate school here, but you're mostly interested in
biology and Rice is a technical institute and we have requirements that you don't
have. You've got to have advanced calculus and advanced thermodynamics
and physics, you have to have advanced this and that. I said, I'll take them. He
said, okay that's fine, but it will take you at least six years to get through the
program. I decided that that wasn't for me. Meanwhile, I had this available, I
could do it. I went to Galveston from Houston to the medical school. I met a
fellow named [Dr. Howard] Swann who was a professor of physiology in the
department of physiology at Galveston, University of Texas medical school. He
was interested. He said, hell yeah, you can come, no problem. I worked the rest
of the year at Houston teaching...
P: Teaching plant biology.
C: Right. In September I started at the medical school, 1952.
P: Barbara was the family supporter?
C: Right, because at that point scholarships and fellowships in graduate school were
zilch. What happened there is the first year, I worked there, but the tuition was
like $25 a semester. It was incredible. State-supported institution, they didn't
charge [very much]. It was a great place. I enjoyed it. I worked with H.G.
Swann who was an outstanding physiologist. I got my degree with him. I got
two degrees, I got a masters and a Ph.D. with him.
P: Did you have to write a thesis?
C: I did two of them. One for the masters and one for the Ph.D.
P: What was the masters thesis?
C: What was it called? I did a study on the effect of anoxia on a newborn. This is
the effect of no oxygen on the newborn. When I finished that, I continued it, did
an extension and published studies in the same area for my Ph.D.
P: So, you got both the M. A. and the Ph. D. at Galveston at the medical school?
C: Right, I did both of these with Swann.
P: You got the M. A. in 1954 I think.
C: And the Ph.D. in 1957. Anyhow, I had to commute from Houston to Galveston.
P: Which is not a short distance.
C: Which is fifty miles each way. We had no money, but we managed to get a loan
and buy a 1940 Plymouth. This was a '40 Plymouth in '52. It had mud-grip
tires on it because it came off a farm. The tires were absolutely huge and they
would never wear out so it was a safe car for me. I drove to Galveston every
morning and drove back every evening.
P: Fortunately, gas was cheaper than it is now.
C: Twenty-five cents a gallon.
P: I wonder how she got to work.
C: I used to drive her to work and then get on the freeway. It used to take me an
hour to get there and an hour to get back. That was nothing since travel in
Boston always took me a hour to go somewhere. I did that for a year. I wore
out the car. The front seat sort of went back like this, by the time I got through
with it. I had never owned a car before in my life. I didn't know anything at all
about cars. When I got this, I knew that you had to add oil to it. I used to get
these ten gallon cans of oil at Sears Roebuck in Houston. Every now and then I
would add oil to the car to keep the level correct, but I never changed the oil. By
the end of the year, I had burned two cylinders because I had never changed the
oil. I was not permitted to get on the freeway because I couldn't maintain the
minimum speed [of forty miles-per-hour]. We had to get rid of it.
P: You had no money.
C: We decided that Barbara would take a job in Galveston. She came to
Galveston. We got an apartment in Galveston. We got a new car. We got
another used car. [We purchased a 1949 Plymouth in 1952]..
P: Moving up the
C: It was a nice car. Some old lady in Houston put 10,000 miles on it. It was a
great car. We drove to Boston in it any number of times. We were settled.
Barbara did very well financially at both jobs. She was able to help support [my
studies]. After I got my masters degree, I was asked if I would like to teach the
nurses and they gave me a stipend. I taught physiology to the nurses, lectured
and had labs with them for a year or two. Then I became an assistant in the
regular physiology labs.
P: But you don't have the Ph.D. yet?
C: Not yet. I helped teach medical students. I got to know all the medical students
coming through from that period on, from 1953 all the way through 1957.
P: But you're taking courses at the same time?
C: I was taking courses and teaching at the same time.
P: And working on your Ph.D.
C: And working on my Ph.D., right.
P: What was your dissertation for the Ph.D.?
C: The effect of hypoxia on the newborn brain.
P: Sounds fascinating.
C: It was the sort of thing where I did this on animals. I had to do it on newborns.
I did it on newborn rabbits and newborn dogs, newborn rats. They weren't
available at all times. I had to do it when they were available which meant there
were times that I went into the lab at midnight and worked through 6:00 or 7:00 in
the morning. A litter of animals would take a long time.
P: Was physiology now your major interest?
C: Physiology was my major interest, but I had to take courses in physiology, I had
to take courses in biochemistry, I had to take courses in pathology, I had to take
courses in neuroanatomy. I did this as a non-medical student, but I did it in
competition with the med class, it was quite a thing.
P: So you get the Ph.D. when?
C: 1957, but while I was getting it, I had the fellowship, a fellowship, in physiology to
teach nurses and help with the medical classes. At the same time, for my last
year there, 1956-57, the [chairman of the] department of pharmacology, [Dr.
George Emerson] who knew me well, because I had taken courses with him as
well [offered me a fellowship]. The department of pharmacology needed
somebody to set up the laboratories for their course. The [students who had
done this previously had left]. They needed somebody in a bad way. They
asked me if I would do it. I got permission to get two fellowships simultaneously.
They were $2,400 a year [each]. I was making $4,800 a year, setting up in
pharmacology and doing physiology and also working on my dissertation.
P: And Barbara is working?
C: Barbara is working. The chairman of pharmacology was one of the original quiz
kids. His name was George Emerson. He was a very nice person and I got
along very well with him. The president of the medical school at Galveston was
a fellow named Chauncy D. Leake who was a pharmacologist and a biochemist
and the president of the medical school which was unheard of. Most medical
schools had M.D.s as presidents. He was a fabulous guy, he was a philosopher
and a tremendous teacher. Anyway, they arranged for me to have both of
these. The dean of the medical school at that time, also a Ph.D., D. Bailey
Calvin, a biochemist, wrote letters to the draft board to keep me out of the
Korean situation saying Cassin is essential to our teaching effort and our
research and we can't do without him and I was married, so I didn't have to go
into the Korean situation. We had our first child, Robin, in 1956.
[End of side Al]
C: [While I was a student assistant] in 1956 to 1957, [I interacted with] a student
who lived near the border of Mexico, I think he was Mexican actually. He was a
first year medical student and he was having trouble getting through [physiology]
so I became his tutor. I didn't get any money for this, I just tutored him. At the
end of the year when I was ready to leave, he said look, my father is in the
automobile business, is there anything I can do for you? I said, yes, I want to
get a new car. We're going to leave for another job. He said, don't buy it, let
me get it for you. He got us a brand-new '57 Ford station wagon and his father
drove it to Galveston. I think we paid something like $1,800 instead of $2,700
with a loan. That's what we had when we came to Gainesville. I thought that
was great. The other thing I wanted to say is while I was a graduate student,
NIH wasn't funding much like it does now, but there was a granting agency which
was local. It was called the Hogg Foundation.
P: Which is, of course, a well-known family in the area.
C: I applied for Hogg Foundation fellowship and I got a Hogg Foundation grant and
fellowship to do my research while I was a graduate student on this Ph.D. thesis.
That was the first sort of grant that I ever got. The Hogg Foundation was [set
up by] the Hogg family [who] lived in Houston. They had unique names. There
were two woman Youra Hogg and Ima Hogg, and they provided the funds for my
P: Sid, this is going back just a little bit. You have one year here at Harvard
medical school, 1950-1951.
C: That's the year that I worked with Paul Zoll.
P: You were the research assistant there. I just want to make sure we get that on
the tape so that we don't lose it at all. Okay, you get your degree, your Ph.D.,
again what year?
P: Now you got to get out and start making a real living.
C: Yes. When I was working on my Ph.D. my last year and writing my dissertation,
I had to present scientific information on the work that I had done. My major
advisor, Howdy Swann arranged for me to go to physiology meetings that were
held in Atlantic City. Every year there was a Society for Experimental Biology
meeting, the physiologists, the biochemists, the anatomists all met. They either
met in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, or Atlantic City. I managed to present
two papers two years in a row, 1956 and 1957 in Atlantic City and in Philadelphia
on research that I was doing. The university took care of my expenses for all
this. They sent me up there and paid for everything. Room, board, the airfare,
the whole bit. Where was I going from here? I had to look for a job. The last
year that I was in graduate school, I wrote off to a [number] of different
institutions inquiring about positions. At these national meetings, they had
interviews for people looking for jobs. [One of the schools] that I wrote to was the
University of Buffalo. The chairman of the department there was a fellow named
Herman Rahn who was an outstanding respiratory physiologist. My area of
research [dealt with] respiratory [physiology] and newborn. He invited me to
come up and give a seminar. [Dr. Rahu] took care of all the expenses. I gave a
seminar and I was told that the job was mine. I was to start in September. I
also managed to have an interview with a fellow named Wallace Fenn who was
also a respiratory physiologist. I met him in New Orleans.
P: Where was Fenn from?
C: [He was chairman of Department of Physiology at] Rochester. He offered me
the job at Rochester as an instructor because then everybody started out as an
instructor. I [also made contact with] Arthur Otis who was [Chairman of
Physiology] at Gainesville. We met at Atlantic City. He had me up to his room.
We talked about what I was doing and how I would do it and what I could teach
and what I couldn't do and he offered me a job. So, I had three offers,
Gainesville, Rochester, and Buffalo. It turned out that Rahm, Otis, and Fenn
originally all worked together in Fenn's department in Rochester. So they were
very close, very good friends, and they knew each other very well. Here I was,
being offered a job at any one of these places. These were the most
outstanding research places for respiratory physiology in the country. These
[individuals] were absolutely outstanding. Both Fenn and Rahn became
presidents of the American Physiological Society. On one of the days that I was
going off on an interview, I think it was one of my trips to Buffalo, on the plane
next to me, was my [teacher and my] friend Dr. Chauncy Leake. He was going
somewhere else. He said, well Cassin what are you going to do now that you've
got your degree? I said, I'm going off to look at a job now. He said, where are
you going? I told him I had been to Buffalo and they wanted me to come back.
I had been involved with Fenn at Rochester. Now I was going to look at a job in
Florida. He said, I was on the original committee to set up that medical school in
Gainesville. It's a marvelous place, it's a fantastic place. What you want to do
is get in on the ground floor. I would go to Gainesville rather than the other
places. He started telling me about the train that came into town downtown and
about the horse troughs that were there, where you could tie your horse up to a
post. He went on and on. A beautiful city, tree-lined road, University Avenue
was all tree-lined. He convinced me.
P: Had you heard of Florida before then? It was a brand-new institution?
C: No, I hadn't. I'd heard of Otis, and I'd heard of Rahn, and I'd heard of Fenn. I
figured I couldn't go wrong with Otis who had come there from Hopkins.
P: I was going to ask you what Arthur Otis' background was.
C: Arthur Otis was a respiratory physiologist who worked with Fenn and Rahn at
Rochester. At some point, Rahn left Rochester and went to Buffalo to set up a
department. Otis went to Hopkins to set up a division there. From Hopkins, he
came here. So, I took this job.
P: Otis was already a man of national reputation.
C: He had a tremendous reputation. I took this job and I've never been sorry. It
was the greatest thing I ever did.
P: You heard about it from who?
C: Chauncy D. Leake.
P: Chauncy tells you on the plane about Gainesville and how wonderful it is.
C: I had heard about the job available and I told him I was looking into it. Chauncy
said if I were you, I would go to Gainesville. Get in on the ground floor.
P: Chauncy was here to set up physiology?
C: No, he was here to set up the medical school when Shands and all those people
got together to decide on a medical school, Chauncy was an advisor to the
P: His name is probably somewhere in my earlier interviews.
C: I don't know, but Chauncy Leake had something to do with it.
P: You make this decision to come to Gainesville. You meet with Arthur Otis,
obviously to sew the whole thing up.
C: I did. He provided funds for me to carry my family here.
P: How much were they offering you?
C: I got my first salary, $5,200 a year.
P: That was a very handsome salary at the time.
C: That's what my advisor told me. He said, I made $2,400 when I got my first job.
So I came here. What most people didn't realize is my senior year in graduate
school, I was making more than this.
P: You applied with a wife and a baby.
C: Yes, wife and two kids because we had our second one by then. We came here
with a wife and two kids and one of the dogs that I saved from one of my
P: So you came with a loaded car.
C: Yes, we came with a loaded car.
P: Where did you move into?
C: When we first came, we came through here to see the place and then went up to
Boston for vacation. Then we came back again. Let me tell you the rest of the
story. When I was still in Galveston, there was a fellow by the name of Al
Benedict. He worked with, Morris Pollard, [Al was a] nice young guy that I knew
personally. Morris Pollard was a virologist. He studied microbes and viruses.
Al Benedict who was from California, from Berkeley was doing a post doctoral
fellowship in Morris Pollard's lab. I was telling Al Benedict that I [was] going to
go to Gainesville. He said, oh great, my very close friend Mel Herzberg works
there. Let me call him up for you right now and he'll help you find a place to live
and all the rest. He got on the phone and called Mel Herzberg and had me talk
to him. Mel Herzberg said, when you come into town, give us a call. My wife
and I will help you find a place. We drove into town. We went to the old Hotel
Thomas where we spent almost a week. Mel Herzberg helped us find a place.
I think it was [off] SW 6th Street near where the sorority houses are [today], the
other side of Norman Hall.
P: I know where you're talking about.
C: I think the Rabinowitzes lived near there.
P: Mrs. Rabinowitz lived there. The Blocks lived near there.
C: Right, Seymour [Block] lived about a block away from us. We moved into this
brand-new duplex. It was a two-bedroom, one-bath place. Here we are with
two kids. We lived there for about a year. We found the place in Woodland
Terrace right near Herzberg on NW 35th Terrace. We lived there until '64 when
we built [our current house].
P: What was your impression of Gainesville?
C: It was a beautiful place. When I got here, both Barbara and I decided, it's
interesting, but it's dead. There's nothing here. It's not like Galveston, it's not
like Boston. It's a deadly place so we'll stay here for a year and then we're
going to leave. We stayed for a year and we got used to it. We liked it very
P: You liked being in a dead place.
C: It was terrific. The synagogue downtown was great. The people in the
community were terrific. My boss was outstanding. Otis was a terrific boss.
He was a great guy. He was not a dictator by any means like a lot of chairmen
are. He was completely democratic. He never said, do this. He said, I have
this available for somebody to do. Who would like to do it?
P: When you came, what was the status of the medical school?
C: The medical school had been open for one year.
P: So the building was in place.
C: Just the basic science building. The clinical building facility was going up.
P: Was the hospital open?
C: No, things were going up. Just the basic science building.
P: Where was your lab and office?
C: I was on the 5th floor of the J. Hillis Miller Health Center. My lab and office was
room M541 [later I was also given M540].
P: What were your responsibilities when you arrived?
C: When I got here, I was told that my responsibility and Dean Harrell made this
clear we're here to teach. Research is secondary. They didn't push research.
I was told I had to do my job teaching. Everybody in the department was told
the same thing. When I got here, Otis was here, Ernie Wright was here, he was
a neural physiologist, and Mel Fregly was here, an endocrinologist. Fregly had
trained with Fenn, Ron, and Otis, that's how he got the job. Ernie Wright was on
the faculty at Rochester when Otis was there, so that's how he got the job.
Those were the first three guys. When I came, Wendell Stainsby and I showed
up at the same time. Wendell came from Johns Hopkins and I came from
P: Where were the students from? What was the quality of the students in those
C: I got there to teach the second class, but I also ended up teaching the first class
who were now in the second year. The first class was composed primarily of
students who couldn't get into medical school anywhere else in the country.
These were older fellows, most of them, and guys with either C averages, [or
lower]. [Several were] from Harvard or Princeton or Yale. They were not
outstanding students, but the faculty on the admissions committee needed to fill
a class. The thing that happened is that these guys had this tremendous desire
to be physicians. That was the only thing that was important to them in life.
Although they were not outstanding scholars, they were dedicated to medicine.
In my impression, those guys have done better than a lot of people that followed
them with 4.0 averages. They were great students, most of them were
P: How were you able to teach students and you didn't have patients in the
C: I taught them a basic science that doesn't involve patients.
P: You don't need the contact. They did not need the contact with the patients then?
C: All they needed to know was how the heart works, how the kidneys work, how
the lungs work, how the glands work and how the nervous system works. That's
what we taught. In the second year, since I had had experience in the
department of pharmacology at Galveston where I had my second stipend, I
used to help Tom Maren teach pharmacology. I was teaching the first class,
pharmacology and the second class physiology.
P: I did an interview with Maren.
C: Well, Maren and I became very close friends because I helped him out there.
P: It was a good interview we did with Maren.
C: He's an outstanding guy.
P: How is Arthur Otis? Is he in pretty good shape?
C: He's all right. He's not in good shape.
P: We don't have him on tape.
C: You ought to. He's an interesting guy.
P: You think he'll be cooperative?
C: I think he might be.
P: Good. When you came, I'm talking now about the early years, here in the
1950s, what was the status of the library at the medical school? Did it provide
you with what you wanted for your research purposes?
C: I never had any problem with it. The library was located in a different area than
it is now. It had a good staff. It turned out... for me it was great because the
daughter of the head of [the Department of] Ophthalmology at Galveston became
a librarian. [She worked at the medical library of the UTMB in Galveston]. She
came to Gainesville, [her name was Ellen Sykes]. I got the best service I can
think of in that library.
P: What about the other facilities at the medical center? In terms of your own
needs and interests and activities?
C: In terms of my needs and activities, it was great. It was a small group. I knew
everybody. By then, clinical faculty had started to come on even though they
didn't have the space. When the first class got through their second year, there
was a clinical facility available. I knew the heads of pathology, radiology,
cardiology, medicine, ophthalmology... it was small so we knew each other.
P: Everything was small enough.
C: When they became active in the clinics, they helped us teach clinical aspects of
physiology in our course.
P: Did you have in the clinic what you needed for your research?
C: I didn't have anything in the clinic. I had all my stuff in the basic science
building. Arthur Otis provided me for everything that I needed.
P: So, the budget was there to provide you with your needs?
C: Right. Then I got involved in writing grants and we got Air Force support. Our
department had a lot of Air Force money.
P: Why would you get Air Force money?
C: People talked] about sending people [into space]. Sputnik, but there was no
oxygen up there. The stuff that I was doing said that the newborn and the fetus
can tolerate lack of oxygen much more than the adult. So there was some
concern about maybe sending newborn kids up. Altitude, that's where I got the
support. The other thing that I got involved in while I was here was a project that
I'd never thought of before. Tom Maren was interested in carbonic anhydrase
inhibitors, diamox for glaucoma. People that have glaucoma have high
pressures. This acetazolamide or diamox helps get rid of the pressure. There
are other drugs that are used now, but back then, that was the primary agent. I
looked at diamox or acetazolamide from a different aspect. I was interested in
exercise [altitude]. I built chambers for exercising rats. Trained them to run on
a treadmill. I could change the altitude in the treadmill chamber by changing the
gases. I could take them up to a simulated altitude of 15,000 feet. I found that
this drug, acetazolamide, helped these animals run better at [a high] altitude than
those that didn't have the drug. That was used by people in the Olympics that
were held in Mexico City. In fact, they found they could use diamox and help the
runners. If you go to altitude now and you feel dizzy, take some diamox along.
P: The students that you had, you said, were not the highest quality, but they were
C: The first couple years.
P: Where were they coming from?
C: Harvard, Yale, Princeton.
P: The Ivy League.
C: There were a lot from other schools, but there were a lot of students that came
from these good schools.
P: The emphasis then was not accepting Florida students.
C: Well, a lot of these students were from Florida, they had gone up there.
P: They got their education somewhere else.
C: There were some Cubans.
P: What I'm really asking is, was this, to begin with, a provincial school? A really
second or third-rate institution?
C: I thought it was down at the bottom of the list. It was not an especially good
school when it first opened.
P: How was its reputation with other scholars?
C: It didn't have any reputation for the first couple of years. It rapidly picked up and
it's got an outstanding reputation now.
P: Your responsibilities were to teach. The dean made that very clear to you.
C: Yes, if I had time left over, I could do research. My main responsibility was
P: What was your responsibility to the medical center itself? Did you have any
C: My responsibility for the medical center was to teach renal physiology, kidney
physiology, to the medical students, to teach some phases of endocrinology, how
the parathyroid hormone worked, how the adrenal gland worked, to the medical
P: Were you involved in committee work, planning expansion?
C: Not right at the beginning, but eventually, I became moderator for the faculty
council so that I moderated all the faculty council meetings we had. We
established the Faculty [Council].
P: I know when I talked to the dean, I did a long time ago. He told me that his idea
was that the early faculty would become part of the University of Florida faculty
and participated in all of the activities, the committees and everything on the
campus. That has not happened, of course. It's two separate communities
C: Back then, in order to have graduate students, I had to be approved by Dr.
Grinter [Dean of UF Graduate School]. Everybody that had graduate students
had to go through his office and sit and talk to him for a half an hour or an hour
about what we had done, what we're doing, and how we could fit in with a
graduate program. He said yea or nay. When I first got here, I was appointed,
through him, to do just masters students. Then about a year later, I was
elevated to Ph.D. candidates as well.
P: I see you served on some university committees like the senate.
C: I was on the faculty senate at the university. I was also on the Board of
[Governors of the Division of Sponsored Research, Bob Bryant was chairman.]
We met up on the campus to determine policies, not only of the medical school,
but of the campus.
P: Everything from parking to...
P: I know one of the things that caused a lot of controversy to begin with and maybe
over the years continued, is the fact that they had a pot of money that went in
which was then available to the faculty for travel and for entertainment.
C: Well, that's not entirely true. The pot were funds that were raised by the clinical
people and that money went to the clinical people. None of the basic science
people got any of it.
P: So, you never enjoyed that? But they were members of the faculty who were able
to take advantage of that?
C: The clinical people were. They generated these funds by seeing patients and a
fraction or some portion of it was put into a fund for their use.
P: Did you ever get to the point of working with patients?
C: No, I'm not an [MD].
P: I know, but I just wondered, as the expansion of your programs developed...
C: No, I never worked with patients.
P: You never got on the floors?
C: The closest I got to that, I had a dual appointment in pediatrics.
P: I was going to ask you about that in a little bit, you hadn't quite gotten to that yet.
C: That was as close as I got to clinical [work].
P: You come here as an instructor in physiology. How much teaching did you do?
C: I taught in the main medical course in physiology, and I taught graduate courses,
one in renal physiology and one in neonatal physiology.
P: This means you had three courses to teach. You had no responsibility for
administrative work, as far as the department was concerned?
C: Yeah, I was in charge of the main medical course. I ran the course for a number
P: Were you able to do all this independently or was Arthur Otis, the dean, talking
C: I did this independently.
P: So you were your own boss?
P: You said Arthur Otis was not a dictator, but I just wondered to what degree you
were able to make decisions.
C: If I had a problem, I could go and talk to him about it, but he never butted in.
P: Did your students improve in quality?
C: Yes, they became excellent.
P: Do you mean excellent after they graduated?
C: No, I'm talking about students coming in to the first year. I was on the medical
admissions committee for seven or eight years.
P: You served as instructor then, from 1957 to 1960. Was there an increase in
salary during that time?
P: Then in 1960, you become an assistant professor. You hold that position for six
years, until 1966. Is that right?
C: That's right.
P: Were your responsibilities any different then, as assistant than they had been as
C: Basically, I had the same things to do.
P: The school is getting larger.
C: Yeah, I had more students to teach. Large classes, I spent more time doing the
teaching because of the size of the classes.
P: All of your classrooms were in the health center?
C: Yes. I don't know whether people on campus realize this or not, but when we
taught physiology to the medical students, we had a physiology laboratory on the
fifth floor for medical students. We had a physiology lecture room on the fifth
floor for the students, it was an amphitheater-type lecture hall. Now, we had to
lecture to these people every day, [for] one or two hours, and we had laboratories
that ran five or six hours, eight hours. We had a laboratory that was set up with
all the latest electronic equipment for doing experiments, on animals as well as
on the students themselves. It was set up in quadrants and one or two of us
would run the quadrant, with four tables of sixteen students and we'd rotate
through this thing. Now, that occupied an awful lot of time, because we had to
set up all the experiments, the faculty did it. We set up all the instrumentation, the
faculty did it. We set up the calibrations on all of these instruments to see that
they were working properly. And then, we would not only assist the students in
doing the experiment, but we would spend time with them at the blackboard,
telling them why they were doing it, how they were doing it, how they were
supposed to do it, what mistakes they were making, what it meant and how it
relates to how the body works. At one point we were on the quarter system. The
way we set that up is, one quarter we taught physiology by lecture only, the first
quarter. The students came to the conference room, the seminar room, lecture
hall and we would lecture to them, different areas, for one full quarter. The
second quarter was only laboratory and we had the students every day in the lab
and this was like a six-hour lab every day and then a conference on it. So we
spent an enormous amount of time. Physiology used to run probably 200 or 300
hours. Now, they're down to less than 100.
P: All of your research depended on the availability of animals. Was there any
controversy then about using animals? Nowadays, you hear a lot about that.
C: No, back then, there was no controversy about using [animals]. We used animals
for teaching, as well. There was never any controversy. The pounds used to
donate their animals for research.
P: That's where they came from, many of them?
C: Most of them.
P: Was there an animal farm on campus?
P: Off 34th Street?
C: It started out with the basement floor of the medical school, under the direction of
a guy that had worked for a drug company up North and I can't remember what
his name is now. He was the head of the animal facility. And then they got a
DVM [Doctor of Veterinary Medicine] to come in and head the animal facility. His
name was Harry Stalneker. He ran the animal facility in this basement area of
the medical school. He had rooms set up for rats, rooms set up for mice, rooms
set up for sheep, rooms set up for dogs. It was a huge facility. There were
operating rooms down there, as well. Everybody at the medical school used
them. There was never any problem. Then, when Stalneker resigned and went
somewhere else, Al Moreland became the director of the health center facility
and he expanded to the farm out off 34th Street.
P: Near where the Conference Center is now?
C: Yes. And not only were animals kept out there in the field, but they were also
kept at the medical school.
P: Is that still true today?
C: It's still true today, but the ground floor that used to have the animal facility is now
gone and the facility is in the basement.
P: So you had no problem with the public opinion criticizing the use of animals?
C: At least nothing for about the first ten years.
P: But now it's a rising tide of it.
C: After the first ten years, we started having people at the medical school arguing
with us about the use of animals. It was minimal, but it was there.
P: Isn't that a continuing problem?
C: It is now, yeah.
P: Do you think it will ever get to the point where they will do something about it?
C: I think if anything, it will get to the point where people will not be able to use
P: That's what I wondered about. Then, the question is, what are you going to find
as a substitute?
C: Well, they are going to get cells from animals somehow. Work on isolated cells.
P: But in the early years of the 1950s and 1960s, that was not a difficult situation at
P: You are an assistant professor until 1966. Tell me about this period of one year
when you were a special NIH fellow, from 1962 to 1963 and you go to Oxford,
C: We used to have departmental seminars where we'd invite people from all over
the country and all over the world to come and give seminars in our department.
Arthur Otis knew Geoffrey Dawes, a physiologist in England, [at] Oxford. [Arthur]
invited him to come to our department and give a seminar. The seminar that he
gave dealt with same thing that I was working on, the effect of anoxia on the
newborn. Well, when he presented his seminar and there was time for
discussion, we got into an argument and I said, I thought what he had was
wrong. We argued and argued and finally he said, Cassin, let's settle this once
and for all. I have a laboratory at Oxford, you come and work in my lab here and
we'll settle it. So I said, sure, how can I do that? I don't have the money or the
permission to go over there. He said, don't worry about it, we'll take care of it.
So he told me where to apply. I applied to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and I
applied to the National Institute of Health for grants to go to Oxford for a year.
Of course, he wrote a supporting letter for me. I was awarded two stipends, one
from NIH and one from the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. I think the reason I got
the Cerebral Palsy Foundation [grant] is that the head of the committee at that
point was a fellow named Windle, who had also worked in the same area that I
was working in, but he was sort of prior to my time. He had done preliminary
work, but he knew my work because it had been published. He knew me. I had to
go to Washington D.C. to get interviewed by him for the fellowship and I
remember taking the train out of Gainesville, sleeping on the train all the way into
Washington, to the train station. Getting there about 6:00 in the morning and
going to see Windle. I had to walk a couple of blocks to where he was. I saw him
about 8:00 in the morning. After he saw me, he said, don't worry about it, you got
it. I got on the train and came back home.
P: And Barbara started packing.
C: Then I got notification from the NIH that I got theirs. They paid more than
P: But you could accept both grants?
C: No, either one. So I took the NIH one. I told Geoffrey that I was coming over with
the NIH [grant]. The NIH grant provided some funds for his lab, as well as my
stipend and it provided for my travel.
P: So your family could go with you?
C: Oh, yes. We found the easiest, cheapest way to get over there. Plane was out
of the question, because by then we had three children and when we got this
acceptance, Barbara was ready to deliver with our fourth. So, we found the best
way to go was by ship. Our Ford station wagon had died by that point and I got
a new VW bus. Not a camper, but an ordinary bus. I loaded that up with all of our
stuff, drove to New York and we got on the ship Rotterdam, and took the ship
from New York to England.
P: What did you do with the car?
C: The car was on the ship.
P: Oh, I see, you carried it with you.
C: Yeah, and it only cost something like $350, round trip.
P: That was wonderful, because then you had it at the facility in England.
C: We got to Southampton, unpacked our stuff, took the car off the ship and I drove
it to Oxford. [Interruption in tape]. We found out about all of this before Barbara
delivered with our fourth child, Kim. Then the department of medicine
announced that they were going to have a division of ophthalmology and so they
found Herb Kaufman, who was still finishing his residency [and, or research]
training at Harvard. [He was a] very bright, capable young guy and they decided
they would get him as soon as he finished what he was doing there. They got
him to come to Gainesville. Meanwhile, he had ordered all sorts of equipment for
his area in the hospital, that he wanted to have when he came. Barbara got a
job working part-time for the department of ophthalmology before Herb arrived on
the scene. She helped set up that division by checking all the equipment, having
it unpacked, looking at it, sending back what was broken] and keeping what was
good. She spent a lot of time setting all of that up before Herb came to
Gainesville. She announced to him that we were going to Oxford, so she sort of
left him with all this stuff. We went overseas, but before we could get on the
ship, the baby had to be outside. They wouldn't let her get on while she was still
pregnant. She was induced a little early to deliver. When we got on the ship, the
baby was a week old, but as long as it was outside, it was fine. We got on board
P: You didn't have any concern about whether the ship was able to do what you
needed to feed and take care of the baby?
C: No, they told us they had everything [we] needed, so I believed them. We got
on board with Robin, who at the time was six, Nancy was five, Lisa was two, and
the baby. The Rotterdam was a fantastic ship. The food was outstanding, the
facilities were outstanding. They had things for the kids to do. We had somebody
who would watch the baby if Barbara and I wanted to stay out for the evening,
dancing, or something. It was great. It took us, I think, about seven days to cross.
When we got there, we got into the car, like I said, had the Volkswagen taken off
the ship, got into the car and we drove. Now, my car had the steering wheel on
the left side, like it should have in the States. When we got to England, you're
driving on the wrong side of the road. Well, from Southampton to Oxford is a
beautiful, sort of wooded, high-wall area. All the time I drove, I was next to the
wall. Barbara was on the outside, saying [car coming, keep left!] We finally
made it to Oxford and once we got into Oxford, even though I was on the wrong
side of the road and driving on the wrong side, my steering wheel was always on
the wrong side, it worked out very well. [We adapted to the situation quickly] and
it was no problem.
P: You got used to it?
C: Yes, in a hurry. Geoffrey Dawes had managed to find an apartment for us before
we got over there. He got us this apartment which was listed as a
semi-detached, that meant that there were two apartments, side by side. The
apartment had a big living room and there was a dining room and a kitchen
[downstairs]. Upstairs, there were three bedrooms, [but] there was no central
heat. This was an old English house.
P: A cold flat?
C: It wasn't a cold flat. There was heat from the stove that would be distributed, but
there was no electric heat, there was no oil.
P: It wasn't quite like your childhood.
C: No. It was better than what I had as a child, but it was much worse than what we
had in Gainesville. The refrigerator was one of the tabletop things. They had
an old washing machine, no dryer, but we had, built into the wall [what] was
called a larder. We used to put our milk in there; in the wintertime, it would
freeze solid. Milk and eggs and all the food would go in there. In the evening, it
got so cold, we had fireplaces in the house. There was a fireplace in the living
room and there was fireplace in the dining room. We had a big coal storage area
outside, a shed. We could take coal into the house and build a fire. We used to
have dinner and then everybody would get into the living room where the
television was, a couple of sofas, and we'd build a coal fire. We'd sit there until
it was time to go to bed.
P: An then you had to freeze, you had to change into your nightgown.
C: The houses were typically British. The john, or the WC [water closet], was
upstairs and it was separate from the bathrooms. There was a water closet way
up in the attic somewhere and it had one of these pull-chain johns. The bath was
a terrible thing because there was no shower, just a bath, [and no heat].
Everybody had to take a bath. In the wintertime, the water runs out of tub to the
outside plumbing. They had big pipes hanging from the second floor down to the
ground, cast-iron, where all the water ran out. Well, we had some bad weather
while we were there. We had the coldest weather they'd had in the last 100
years, at one point. We had the most snow they'd had in the last 100 years. It
was so cold that the River Thames froze over. You could drive a car across it. It
was so much snow that the city was buried for a week. They didn't have any
equipment, the way we did in the States, to clean out the snow. They had no
snow shovels or anything. During that week, I knew a lot of people in the
neighborhood, I'd made a lot of friends in the neighborhood.
Because I had a Volkswagen, I could take the seats out. These people didn't
have any coal because no one expected this storm and when the storm
happened, they were freezing. I was appointed, as a committee of one, to supply
coal. My car was the only car [with] rear-wheel drive. I could get out and drive
downtown. They couldn't move their little cars. So I drove downtown, filled it with
coal. I brought coal back and it was great. Now, our car was too big to fit into the
garage that we had there, it wouldn't fit into that garage. But the thing that we did
during the fall when we were there, [was to pick apples off the tress in our back
yard]. We filled carton after carton with apples and put them in that garage.
Barbara made applesauce for the rest of the year. I bought a bicycle while we
were there. We lived three or three-and-a-half miles from the Institute where I
worked. So I used to ride my bike in every day.
P: Tell me about the Institute itself.
C: Nuffield Institute for Medical Research. It was an institute set up by somebody
named Nuffield for medical research. Geoffrey Dawes who was a medical doctor,
and had an advanced degree as well. [End tape A, Side 2] They had a huge
building, it was a three-story building with a library on the top floor and the
research lab on the second floor and some offices on the first floor. And this was
right on the grounds of the Radcliffe Infirmary, which was the hospital for Oxford
University at the time, it was their medical school, the Radcliffe.
P: Was this a very satisfying year?
C: It was a terrific year. I had a great time because not only was I there, but there
were several other people who worked in the lab with us. There was Geoffrey
Dawes, myself, Ben Ross was an American from Oregon who came over at the
same time. He had trained with Fenn and Rahn and Otis so we were immediately
great friends. There was a lady by the name of Joan Mott who had spent most
of her [career] working with Geoffrey Dawes. There was Leonard Strang, who
became the head of pediatrics at University College, London. All of us worked
together on the project that we were doing. We didn't work on the thing that I
argued with Geoffrey about. Instead of doing that, we worked on sheep and
how the lungs of the fetus open up when the baby takes the first breath. Now, in
England, they were much more rigid about working with animals than they were
here. I had to sign my life away and have somebody come into the lab every day
and check my book to see what we did, my research book. They had people
come into the lab, to see that you were not doing things to sheep that you weren't
supposed to do. [Animal research] was pretty rigidly controlled. We worked on
the lungs of the fetus. We had sheep that were anesthetized and we delivered by
Caesarian section, the fetus, put it adjacent to the mother and then we would
operate on the sheep, on the fetus and put probes of various kinds, flow meters
and transducers for pressure in the fetal system and try to find out why the lungs
dilated, or opened up, at the time of birth. When the fetus is in utero, the lungs
are filled with liquid. You and I, we lived in a water atmosphere, in the amniotic
space, the mother's womb and the amniotic membrane that covers the baby, and
the baby is in there with an umbilical cord attached to the mother, but this fluid all
around the baby and the baby produces fluid from his lungs, can't breathe in
there. When he comes out, what causes him to breathe and what causes the
lungs to get rid of the water and the circulation to change to the advantage of the
fetus, of the newborn? This is what we worked on. We found that with the first
breath, when the baby takes the first breath of oxygen, the vessels of the lung
dilate, they expand. So, the blood flow changes from a high-pressure system to
a lower-pressure system. The baby is able to survive. There is no resistance to
the flow. There's no pulmonary hypertension, whereas prior to the first breath,
the baby has the equivalent of a pulmonary hypertension. We found out about
the effect of gasses on this. Then we worked with drugs to see what the drugs
would do. This is what we spent our year on.
P: How did the family get along over there?
C: Barbara had a fabulous time because when we got to Oxford, we got a
chairwoman to come in and clean the house. She would come in every morning
for three or four hours. She would take care of the two little ones while she was
there, and then the two older ones went to school. They came back in the
afternoon, Barbara arranged for a bunch of girls from different countries to come
in and stay with the kids. There was an au pair school in Oxford. The girls were
from Germany and Switzerland and France. They all came over to learn about
being an au pair. They learned English and then they could go work for some
English family and take care of children. Well, we didn't want anybody to live in
with us and that was one of the requirements, so we found girls in school who
were willing to work for us without living in our house. There was a German girl, a
French girl and a Swiss girl that came. They used to rotate. I'd come home at
night from work and I never knew who I was going to see. It was always a
different girl there, but they were taking care of the kids.
P: And Barbara did the cooking?
C: Barbara did the cooking, but in the daytime, when the kids were being taken care
of, she traveled all over England in our bus, going to churches and places where
she could do brass rubbings. We have some brass rubbings on the wall here that
she did. She spent a lot of time traveling to historic sites and seeing historic
things and doing antique hunting and going to museums and doing brass
P: Did you get a chance to see a little of England and Scotland?
C: On weekends. One of the things we did which was interesting, before we went
to England, we were never campers and, I guess, it was about a year before we
went overseas, Wendell Stainsby, who was a close friend of ours and lived
across the street from us when we lived down near Herzberg and Donald
Eitzman, who was a pediatrician, we were very close. Those guys used to go
camping all the time. They convinced Barbara and I, that was the year before
Kim was born, they convinced us to go on a camping trip with them. We went to
Tomoka State Park over near Daytona. We borrowed a tent from another friend,
Arnold Nevis, who was in neurology. Well, I got to like camping. It was an
interesting way to relax. So when we got to England, we found that it would be
much less expensive for us to see all of England if we camped out rather than
staying in bed -and-breakfasts or at pubs. For the first week or two or three, we
tried seeing some things and we stayed at bed-and-breakfasts or pubs and at
that point, it was a pound [$2.80], per person, per night, which is not very much.
Well, what I did was I got in touch with my friend Wendell Stainsby and he got us
a tent at Sears-Roebuck that was on sale and he used it once or twice and then
he shipped it to us. Well, if you ship goods that are new, you have to pay a big
tariff on them. But this was old now, because he'd used it, so I didn't have to pay
any tariffs. It was a great tent and we used it, we camped all over England and
then when my year was up, we camped all over Europe. It slept six of us. We
had a big mat in the middle of it.
P: The girls were growing up now.
C: Yeah, well, still Robin was six, turning seven. Nancy was turning six. Lisa was
three and Kim was going to be a year old. We bought cots and we put the cots
around the mat. Barbara and I slept on the mat. They slept in cots. We traveled
all over England [on] weekends. Scotland, Wales, England proper.
P: You had a good time?
C: Had a great time.
P: And the weather cleared?
C: The weather cleared.
P: What did you prove from your year of research?
C: We published the paper that was later quoted by everybody under the sun. We
proved that the fetal lung dilated when oxygen reached the lung. And we proved
that the first breath was the cause of the dilation and also the closure of
something called the ductus arteriosis; you have it as a fetus, but you don't have
it as an adult.
P: So you come back to Gainesville and you're promoted again, now you're
associate professor in 1966, the position you hold for three years until 1969.
What about Barbara, did she go back to work for Kaufman?
C: She went back to work for Kaufman and she worked for Kaufman until he left,
then she worked for Mel Rubin. She was there until about ten years ago.
P: What was she doing there?
C: She was teaching and seeing patients. An orthoptist is a person who treats
people that are cross-eyed. She used to treat kids who had eyes that moved out
or moved in. Some kids have eyes that do this, some kids have eyes that do that.
She would treat them and train them how to use both their eyes together.
P: Did she get all of this from the time that she was in school or did she get
C: No, she got all this when she was at Simmons and Harvard.
P: So she didn't need additional updating courses?
C: She didn't do any of that, but she learned a lot by being in a clinic.
P: You come back to Gainesville and move back into your house. Who was taking
care of your property while you were away?
C: We rented it to a family that came to Gainesville for a year.
P: You found it in pretty good condition?
C: It was in great shape when we came back.
P: What had changed at the medical school, at the health center, during the time
you were away?
C: During the time that we were away, they increased the size of the faculty.
P: Large growth?
C: There was growth. New people. The first class that I taught, only had forty-eight
students, then it went up to about eighty. I think, by the time I went to England
and came back, it had gone up to 125. The classes changed in size.
P: Now, I know you had nothing to do with patients, but the number of patients that
came to use Shands was increasing all the time, wasn't it, but this did not impact
you in any way?
C: No, it had nothing to do with me. The clinical departments took care of the
patients and the clinical departments were getting larger and larger.
P: The whole medical center was expanding greatly from a relatively small building
to begin with, it turns into a colossal city, almost.
C: Now it is. It's huge now. They just put two new buildings up again.
P: You come back here and serve as associate professor for three years, then in
1969, you make professor, a position you held up until the time of your
P: What did that mean?
C: I was responsible, part of the time, for integrating and running the course in
P: You got new faculty that you were directing also?
C: I didn't direct new faculty. The faculty who were there did the thing that they
wanted to do. I merely organized the course.
P: What was the size of the department in 1970?
C: I would guess, we had Ernie [Wright], Arthur [Otis], Wendell [Stainsby], Mel
Fregly, myself, Dan Belkin, George Gerenscer and Bob King. Originally, there
were three and then were five. We went from five to eight.
P: Then, of course, you had student assistants and that sort of thing.
C: Yeah, we had graduate students.
P: So it becomes a pretty large operation?
C: We had probably fifteen or twenty people.
P: And space is available for all of them?
C: We had adequate space, yes.
C: I never felt like I was deprived.
P: Were you ever crowded and wondering about lab space?
C: There were times when it was crowded in the lab because I had three post-docs
and a couple of graduate students in one big room. No big deal. I got more
space. By the time I retired, I had more space.
P: Let me find out about your association with pediatrics, which suddenly comes in,
I noticed your visiting professor of pediatrics, Dr. Strang. How did all of this relate
C: The year that I spent in Oxford, Leonard Strang was in London and he used to
come in daily to work with us on our experiments.
P: Who was Strang?
C: Leonard Strang was a professor of pediatrics.
C: In London.
P: At a particular hospital?
C: University College, London. Then he became head of the pediatrics department.
P: And you knew about him before you ever went to Europe, before you went to
C: No. I didn't know about him before I went over there. I met him over there.
Leonard Strang was paralyzed, he has to walk with crutches. Both of his limbs
were sort of unable to move. He used to walk with crutches. He managed to do
all this. This was congenital.
P: Was he an outstanding scientist?
C: He was an outstanding scientist. He had written several books. I met him
shortly after he came back to England from the United States, where he was
doing a post-doctoral at Harvard. He went to Harvard the way I went to Oxford.
He was at a meeting in London, [a] Pediatric Research Society meeting and I
went there with Geoffrey Dawes to listen to papers and Strang got up and gave
his paper and he argued with Dawes and Dawes got mad at him and said,
Strang, if you want to settle this once and for all, come and work with us. So
Leonard traveled into Oxford for all of our sheep experiments by car every time
and he'd either stay over at Joan Mott's or stay at a hotel and go back the next
day. He was part of this group of five of us who wrote the paper on what we did.
We wrote two papers on what we did, [and Leonard] was one of the co-authors.
Over the next few years, he kept doing more and more and he eventually
became chairman of the department of pediatrics at University College-London.
Since I knew him from working with him at Oxford, and I knew him from various
meetings that we'd go to, to discuss the work we were doing. We were always
seeing each other. He said, why don't you come over and show us your
technique one day, to do the experiments that you do. I'd like to know how to do
them. I said, sure. Arthur gave me a mini-sabbatical to go over there, so we
went over to work with him for six months. We lived in London. Leonard got us
an apartment in Soho.
P: A little bit better heated?
C: It was beautiful. Better heated, very nice. There were a couple of guys who lived
in that apartment and they went off to Australia, so we sub-leased it from them.
P: Your kids are older now?
C: Well, the kids were older now, so the only one that went to London with us was
the youngest one. The other, Nancy was married and Robin was married and
Lisa was about to get married.
P: This was 1979 to 1980 and you were based in London, driving on the left side?
C: No, I didn't have a car with us. We just went over. We flew over and things had
changed, so that we could fly over without any problem.
P: You could get around London without any problem?
C: Yeah, we rented a car over there.
P: You did a lot more sightseeing in the country?
C: More sightseeing.
P: You were there six months or a year?
C: Six months.
P: So that made you something of a pediatrician?
C: No, it didn't make me a pediatrician, I was simply in the pediatrics department.
When I came back from working with Geoffrey Dawes, in 1963, I started doing
the kind of research that I did with him, here. Don Eitzman, who lives a block
over from us was a professor of pediatrics in the department of pediatrics here.
He and I collaborated on our research and published papers together. What used
to happen, is I used to teach a course to graduate students in our department on
fetal and neonatal physiology. Eitzman used to send the pediatric fellows over to
take the course with me. The pediatricians used to come into my course to take
the course and eventually I got to the point where I was teaching in the
department of pediatrics. It was a required course for them. The chairman of
pediatrics at that [time], Gerold Schiebler, and I were good friends and he said,
we'll give you a joint appointment in pediatrics because you're doing all these
things and you come to all of our meetings, discuss all our papers. So I got a joint
appointment to pediatrics here.
P: As a result of Schiebler?
C: So, I was professor physiology and pediatrics. I never saw patients in pediatrics,
but I helped train their people. I used to get post-doctoral fellows from pediatrics
to work in my lab. In fact, most of the people on that list that I gave you were
pediatricians who came and worked with me.
P: You held the dual appointment, then, until you retired in 1997?
C: Until I retired. Right.
P: What did you do during the 1980s and 1990s? Did you continue doing the same
thing you had been doing, teaching and research?
C: I had funding. I think I sent you a list of all the funding I had. I had continuous
funding for my research for close to thirty years.
P: Was this a big deal, getting the funding?
C: It's a very big deal. This occupies a lot of the time of basic scientists. You get a
grant; usually a grant lasts three years. At the end of the third year, you have to
write about what you have done, submit another grant as a continuation or for
something new, but you have to justify what you are doing in [great detail]. It's a
very difficult thing, to write a good grant, get a good ranking on it. It takes an
awful lot of time to do that. We didn't have computers, we had old-fashioned
typewriters. I'd write the thing by hand and give it to a secretary and she'd type it
up full of mistakes, I'd have to give it back to her, [she'd have to] re-type it. It took
forever. I used to spend the night, I used to stay at school around-the-clock. I'd
go in at 8:00 [or] 9:00 in the morning, teach my course, do some research and
then at 6:00, start writing my grant and I'd stay there until the next day.
P: Who were the most generous presenters of grants?
C: NIH. But I had funding from NIH, I had funding from the American Heart
Association, and I had funding from the American Lung Association, for all the
time that [I was here].
P: When Dr. [Robert] Marston became President of the University [of Florida], did
that make things easier to doors opened for you?
C: Not for me, no. I don't know whether you want to record this or not. I don't know
how true it is, but the stories that came around were that Marston came here
from the National Institute of Health, but he was sort of pushed out of there.
P: Yes, the Nixon situation. He talks about that on the interview I did, so he didn't
make a secret of it.
C: The point is, he was all right, he wasn't the greatest.
P: As a result of being pushed out, he had lost his influence there?
P: So he was not a factor? That's really the point I wanted to make.
C: No. You have to become known nationally and internationally for what you've
done before you can generate...
P: Where are you now, on the scale? You've been at the university since 1957,
you've been involved in lots and lots of important research. To what degree are
you now known nationally and internationally? I'm talking about the 1980s and
C: I was really known very well then. This is why I was invited to meetings in
Australia, meetings in England, meetings in Germany, all over the [world].
P: I was amazed to see how many different places around the world you were
invited to participate, read papers, and make presentations.
C: That's right.
P: What other places were you invited?
C: If I can remember them correctly. I used to go to Great Britain frequently to talk.
I went to Russia to talk. I went to Germany to talk. I went to Australia.
P: These are international conferences?
C: International meetings. Australia and New Zealand. I went to Hawaii. All of these
things were to give papers.
P: I remember once in England you met some important people there.
C: Yeah, I remember meeting some important people in England who were over
visiting. Was that in 1979, 1980? I remember running into you.
P: How funny it was that we met each other. Seeing you and Barbara, we had not
expected to see you over there.
C: That all came about because I was known for the work that I did.
P: You held a prominent position here in Gainesville, and through it, you had a
reputation now that spread much beyond the local scene here.
C: That's absolutely correct.
P: Did you do anything different during the 1980s and 1990s, before you retired,
than you had been doing earlier? You were still teaching, still researching?
C: I was still doing all of the teaching. That never changed. I taught all the time I was
there. I did research all the time I was there and I was on committees of various
sorts, the admissions committee at the medical school, that was a big item.
Interviewing student and writing reports on them and then discussing them took
an awful lot of time. I wrote grants, that took an awful lot of time. I was on
editorial boards of various journals. I was on the American Journal of Physiology
editorial board. I was on the Journal of Applied Physiology editorial board. I was
on the editorial board of Pediatric Research, which is a pediatric journal. I
reviewed grants for the Canadian Medical Research Society, I reviewed grants
for the National Institutes of Health, I reviewed grants and was on the granting
committee for the American Heart Association. All of these things occupied a lot
of my time.
P: Sidney, if you could determine what you wanted to be remembered for best as a
result of your research, what would it be?
C: I think the thing I would like to be remembered for, is the work that I did at Oxford
on regulation of the first breath and what happens to the pulmonary circulation.
Also, for things that I did with respect to certain drugs and how they control the
P: Do you think, as a result of your research, that you made advancements in the
field that other scientists could take advantage of?
C: Yeah, I think I have. They have. A lot of children have been treated
appropriately, based on what we had done. Kids with hypertension have been
treated with some of the agents that we used.
P: What made you decide to retire?
C: I think I had been there close to forty years.
P: Physically, you were fine, weren't you?
C: Physically, I was fine. I found out, in addition, that I had a problem that a good
friend of mine had. His name is Sam Proctor. I have a [heart] valve leak.
P: Did they give you a pig's valve?
C: No, I haven't had anything done yet. In addition, I have an aortic aneurism,
Ascending aortic aneurism. So, I am on a whole host of drugs to control my
blood pressure and my cardiac output. Right now, my aorta is dilated, but it's not
dilated enough for them to want to do anything about it. I don't think that the
valve leak has gotten severe enough for them to do anything about it, but I have
P: But this was not in any way interfering with your work. If you had wanted to
continue, physically, you could have continued?
C: I could have continued, physically, but I decided I don't know when this is going
to go. It's one of these things where it might go tomorrow. I have no idea when
I'm going to end up...
P: But this was not a decision that you made overnight. You gave it a lot of thought?
C: I gave it a lot of thought.
P: When you retired in 1997...
C: I think actually the thing that I got, the plaque, was 1998, but I'm not sure.
P: What did that mean? What did they do for you?
C: I did a phased retirement. While I retired, I was still teaching courses there.
P: You are still teaching courses?
C: Not now. I took a phased retirement for two years.
P: Why did you do that?
C: Because I didn't feel like giving up teaching. I enjoyed teaching.
P: The contact with students?
C: Right. It was great.
P: Have any of your students gone forward to become rich and famous?
C: Yes. There are a couple of them here in town that are rich and famous
P: And you take full credit for that don't you?
C: Certainly do.
P: Who are they?
C: Thom Tyler, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist. [He] came into our graduate
program, I think it was in the 1970s. He was working with somebody else in the
department and then he came into my lab one day and saw what were doing with
the fetal animal and decided that he liked that and he gave up the other person's
research and came to work with me. This was a guy who was quite bright, but
apparently was part of the generation where he was a motor-scooter or motor
bike patriot, with a helmet and all that sort of stuff, who went riding off into the
countryside every day. He didn't do all that well in undergraduate school, but he
was very bright. When he came into the lab, he sort of caught on, caught on like
a ball of fire. He was probably the most outstanding graduate student I had.
He got his Ph.D. and while he was there, he decided he wanted to go into
medicine, so he got his Ph.D. and then went to medical school and became an
obstetrician-gynecologist and is doing very well here in town.
P: He does very well now.
C: Then there was Ray Gilbert, who got his Ph.D. with me and he preceded Thom
Tyler. Ray got his degree and after he got his degree with me, he did a post-doc
at Johns Hopkins with Saul Permutt and after his post-doc with Saul Permutt,
took a job at the University of California-Loma Linda College of Medicine, in
California and has been there ever since. He's a full professor, and outstanding
and very well known. [I also had a post-doc fellow in the lab about the same time.
His name is Charles Leffler and he is professor of physiology at the University of
Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis.]
P: Have you regretted retiring? Have you missed it that much?
C: I did at first. For the first couple of years, I sort of kept saying...
P: I'm sorry I did it.
C: Yes. I've gotten used to it. Right now, I'm happy doing what I'm doing.
P: How is life like now?
C: Right now, it's great. Do a lot of traveling.
C: We go up to Boston frequently, to visit family. We go to South Florida to visit
family. We've traveled to Europe.
P: You're still going to Europe?
C: Not now. Things are tough over there now. I don't think this is a good time to go
P: Have you been to Israel?
C: Yes. Been there twice. Had an international meeting there the first time. [In]
Haifa. It was a fabulous place back then.
P: What do you do with your time? Have you given up research completely? Do you
have access to a lab or anything?
C: No. I have an office at the med school. I don't have a lab. I don't have any
funding, so I can't do it. But I have still, stuff that I have never published and I,
just this month, published a paper in the American Journal of Physiology.
P: So you're cleaning up now and, for the foreseeable future, you'll be spending
your time writing and publishing.
C: Yes, probably. And what I do is I work around the house. I enjoy working on my
car. I do a lot of car work. I do repair work around the house like...
P: Clean the roof?
C: Clean the roof, fix the toilet, put in new sinks, put in new everything, plumbing,
P: That's pretty good. I wish I had those skills.
C: I like carpentry. I have table saws and jigsaws.
P: Is that what takes up your time? Are you a literary person, do you read?
C: I read, I get a chance to read.
P: Anything special?
C: No, I like mystery stories, sort of fantasy.
P: What role has religion played in your life?
C: Not a great deal. I would consider myself secular, I think. I enjoy the community. I
enjoy being Jewish. I would never do anything else but be Jewish, but there are a
lot of things that happen, that are taught in Judaism, that I just don't find
agreeable, so I don't have much regard for that.
P: So you're not a great synagogue-goer, for instance?
C: No. I go for the High Holidays and this past year, because Barbara's mother died,
we go Friday nights for Kaddish [Jewish prayer for the dead].
P: You're mainly a live-and-let-live sort of individual. Do you watch television
C: Not really, no. I do occasionally, but I don't spend a lot of [time doing that]. I
spend a lot of time on the computer.
P: Your kids are where?
C: Well, my daughter Nancy is here in town. She's an occupational therapist, has
her own business. Her husband, a former student of mine, is a dentist, [Dr.
Winikor]. He got a master's degree in physiology. Their kids are here. They
have a boy, Jared, who's in his junior year of high school at Eastside in the
International Baccalaureate program. Their daughter, [Chelsea], is in the
International Baccalaureate program as well. I have a daughter in Orlando,
Robin, who's [chief of Information Services] for a construction company there.
She's a computer expert. Her husband is a Cantor at the synagogue there.
They are as close to orthodox as you can come. I don't know why, it's not
because of anything I did, but Robin has always been interested in religion. She
was the only one of our girls who was bat-mitzvahed. Lisa is in Newberry and
my daughter Kim is in Mobile.
P: What does she do in Newberry?
C: She lives there.
P: Is she working at home?
C: She works here.
P: How many grandchildren do you have?
C: We have eight. We have three girls and five boys.
P: Are you a sports fan?
C: I enjoy football. I go to all the games. I enjoy watching basketball, but I don't
enjoy going to the games. I'm not much of a baseball fan.
P: But you are a Gator?
C: I'm a Gator.
P: What kind of social life do you have?
C: Most of my social life is with friends that we made when we first came. The
Stainsbys, Otis, Fregly. [Mel Frealy died a few years ago]. Former students
come visit with us or we visit with them, graduate students. In the community,
we have some Jewish friends that we're pretty close to.
P: How old are you now?
C: I'm going to be seventy-four in June.
P: As you look back on your life, are you satisfied?
C: Yes. I think I did everything I wanted to do.
P: How about the future?
C: I don't know what the future holds.
P: I mean, what do you think? Are you happy with the kind of world we're living in
C: Well, I'm not happy with the situation as it now exists, with respect to Israel. And
again, I don't know whether you want this for tape or not, but I'm sort of upset by
the way the rest of the world has had this negative attitude about Israel. All the
riots in Paris, attacks [on a] synagogue in Germany, all these campus
demonstrations at universities like Berkeley, in this country. And they're all
anti-Israel. In my opinion, that's a latent anti-Semitism, not just anti-Israel.
They're saying it's not anti-Semitism, that it's just anti-Israel.
P: It's hard to believe that it's not.
C: I think it is anti-Semitism. Now, I remember anti-Semitism at its worst when I was
a kid growing up in the Boston area. We'd always have problems. Then for like
the last fifty years, I can't remember ever having any problem with anti-Semitism.
I guess when we first came here, to Gainesville, I did my duty, touring near the
old synagogue, with a telephone, because somebody painted swastikas on the
synagogue. Do you remember that?
P: I remember that.
C: Then everything sort of quit. It's been great, haven't had any problems since. But
I see it coming again.
P: What have we not talked about? What have we left out that I was not aware to
ask you? Your professional career is what I'm mainly interested in.
C: I feel as though I have done a lot in terms of committee work, for which I have
received nothing in return, in terms of finances. I served on NIH [site visits] for
years, I served on their advisory committees for granting purposes.
P: That meant you were evaluating grant requests?
C: Evaluating grant requests and voting on program projects as fellows, as well as
individual grants, for years. I did the same thing for the American Heart
[Association]. I did the same thing for the [American] Lung Association, for the
Canadian groups. People that do this do not get paid extra. Being on the
editorial boards, I read more papers for review than you can ever imagine.
Somebody writes a paper for a journal, they send it in to the journal, the journal
sends it out to an editorial board [for] reading and evaluating. I used to have
stacks of these things, like 50 or 100 papers. It takes a lot of time to review them.
I think I've done my share of good things for the physiological society and
physiologists in the country over the years.
P: So you've led a fruitful life, professionally and privately?
C: I think so. It's been a good [life]. Right now, most of the time that we spend
traveling, we've traveled for Barbara's work on genealogy. I'm not as enthused
about it as she is, but she's absolutely committed to it. She's obsessed with
P: It's a fun thing to do.
C: Well, yeah, it is. Up to a point. But she's been at this for ten years now.
P: But she's producing.
C: Yes. I can't find the information that I want on my father. That's the thing that got
me stuck. I have found his sisters' stuff. He brought his two sisters over to this
country. I found stuff on both sisters and their families, but I can't find anything on
my father. He either used a different name or a different age or something.
[End of Interview]