Faculty & Research
History and Philosophy of Science
- Contact Information
- Contact Howard Gest by gest [at] indiana [dot] edu
- By telephone: 812-855-9612
- MO 215
Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 1949
Honorary Member,American Society of Microbiology
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Howard Gest is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Adjunct Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree in bacteriology from the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.) in 1942, and his Ph.D. degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1949.
Professor Gest was born in London, England and emigrated with his family to America when he was one year old. During his undergraduate studies at UCLA, he spent two summers (1941, 1942) assisting Max Delbruck and Salvador Luria doing research on bacterial viruses at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (New York). Gest then began graduate work with Delbruck at Vanderbilt University, but World War II interrupted his studies. At that point he accepted a position to work on the Manhattan (Atomic Bomb) Project with the eminent physical chemist Charles Coryell at the University of Chicago, and later at Oak Ridge (TN). Coryell, who had interests in biochemistry, had been one of Gest's instructors at UCLA.
While still a graduate student at Washington University, Gest initiated research with Alfred Hershey using the radioactive isotope P-32 to investigate the fate of phosphorus during the multiplication of bacterial viruses (bacteriophage).This research culminated in discovery of P-32 "suicide" of bacteriophage (A.D. HERSHEY, M.D. KAMEN, J.W. KENNEDY, and H. GEST: The mortality of bacteriophage containing assimilated radioactive phosphorus, Journal of General Physiology, 34, pp. 305-319, 1951; see also, GEST, H: Photosynthesis and phage: early studies on phosphorus metabolism in photosynthetic microorganisms with P-32, and how they led to the serendipic discovery of P-32 decay "suicide" of bacteriophage, Photosynthesis Research, 74, pp. 331-339, 2002). Prior to 1950, Gest had worked with Delbruck, Luria and Hershey, who shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
During World War II, as a chemist on the Manhattan (Atomic Bomb) Project, he did basic research on the radioactive elements formed in uranium fission. Some of his experiences on the Manhattan Project were described (Feb. 2001) in H. GEST: The July 1945 Szilard Petition on the Atomic Bomb; Memoir by a Signer in Oak Ridge. He has been on the faculties of Case Western Reserve University, Washington University, and Indiana University and has been a visiting researcher at the California Institute of Technology, Dartmouth Medical School, Stanford University, Oxford University, Tokyo University, and U.C.L.A. Professor Gest has twice been named a Guggenheim Fellow and has served on a number of advisory committees of the United States government. During his second Guggenheim Fellowship, he studied problems of biochemical evolution as a member of the Precambrian Paleobiology Group. He is widely recognized for his research on microbial physiology and metabolism, especially with photosynthetic bacteria. Professor Gest is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Microbiology, American Academy of Microbiology, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- H.GEST: How the microbial world was discovered in the 17th century by Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Microbe, in press. 
- H. GEST and J. FAVINGER: Rhodospirillum centenum Survives a Taxonomic Misnomer. Microbe, April 2007; vol. 2, No. 4, p. 165.
- H. GEST: Associations with distinguished scientists during an academic career of over 60 years. Memorabilia include various research papers, books, correspondence, photographs and obituaries. Special Collection, Lilly Library, Indiana University (Bloomington), October 2006. https://scholarworks.i.u.edu/dspace/bitstream/2022/1083/1/Gestfinal.pdf
- H. GEST: Phantom Microbes in the "Astrobiology" Fantasy. Microbe, April 2006; vol. 1, No. 4, p.160.
- H. GEST: Phantom Life on Mars: Microbes and "Super-Bees." Microbe, October 2006; vol. 1, No.10, p.449.