Frederick Bernheim and Molly Bernheim Oral History Interview, March 7, 1984

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Bernheim, Frederick and Duke University. Medical Center. Archives.

Frederick Bernheim and Mary ("Molly") Bernheim were original faculty members at Duke University School of Medicine.

Contains audiotape and transcript of an oral history interview with Frederick Bernheim and Mary ("Molly") Bernheim. Major subjects in this interview include the couple's experiences in the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Pharmacology at Duke University Medical Center. This interview was conducted on 7 March 1984 by James Gifford.

Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Contains audiotape and transcript of an oral history interview with Frederick Bernheim and Mary ("Molly") Bernheim, original faculty members at Duke University School of Medicine.

Biographical / historical:

Dr. Frederick Bernheim was born in 1905 in Long Branch, N.J. He graduated with an AB degree from Harvard in 1925 and received his PhD from Cambridge in 1928. He married Mary Hare in 1928. He studied for two years in Munich and at Johns Hopkins as a postdoctoral fellow, and then he and Mary joined the newly formed medical school at Duke University, in 1930, both becoming members of the original faculty. Also in 1930, Dr. Bernheim was named a fellow of the National Resource Council. His work focused on the effects of drugs on cells, and he contributed in this area from the very beginning of biochemical pharmacology through its growth into one of the primary components of biological science. His research opened up new avenues of investigation for the field, and he would become a Nobel-nominated researcher. For his work, he was named fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences. He was also named James B. Duke Professor of Pharmacology in 1964. He served as president of the Duke chapter of Sigma Xi, editor of the Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, and a consultant for the Biology Division of the Atomic Energy Commission and the pharmaceutical industry. He read widely and was interested in classical languages, chamber music, European and American history, politics, play reading and discussion groups, the University Senate, tennis, and flying. Dr. Mary ("Molly") Bernheim was born Mary Hare in 1902 in Gloucester, England. She spent her childhood in India. She received a BA, MA, and PhD from Cambridge in England, the latter in 1928. She also married Dr. Frederick Bernheim in 1928. Mary Hare, while a graduate student, also in 1928, discovered the enzyme tyramine oxidase. The enzyme was eventually renamed monoamine oxidase (MAO) and was later found to play a significant role in mood regulation. In 1975, the CIBA foundation held a symposium and published a book of papers of papers, called Monoamine Oxidase and its Inhibitors, in honor of Dr. Mary Bernheim's discovery, which Theodore Slotkin calls "one of the seminal discoveries in twentieth century neurobiology." The Doctors Bernheim both would become members of the original faculty of Duke Medical School beginning in 1930, Mary Bernheim in the Department of Biochemistry, and she often was the lone woman in the department. She would become a full professor in 1962. When she passed away at the age of 95, she was the last surviving member of the original faculty of the medical school. She continued her study of liver enzymes and nitrogen-containing compounds while at Duke and published over sixty papers. She taught nutrition courses as well as biochemistry courses, and was far ahead of trends in warning against eating fat and against fad diets. She became an enthusiastic aviator and compiled a book about the subject called A Sky of My Own, which was nominated in 1959 by the North Carolina Board of Award for literary competitions. She was also an avid gardener and naturalist.

Acquisition information:
Acquired; 7 March 1984.
Processing information:

Processed by Jessica Roseberry, December 2008 Encoded by Dawne Howard Lucas, January 2009

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Duke University Medical Center Library's online catalog.


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Terms of access:

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

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Frederick Bernheim and Molly Bernheim Interview, Duke University Medical Center Archives.