This paper examines the history of biophysics at the University of Chicago, with a specific focus on the history of the Institute for Radiobiology and Biophysics (IRB), established at the university in 1945 as a continuation of the Manhattan Project. Discussed herein is how biophysical research developed at Chicago, and how the IRB formed the locus for early work in photosynthesis, phage genetics, and nucleic acid chemistry. The discontinuation of this institution in 1954 did not, however, terminate such work, but led to its dispersal into other entities within the university. Therefore the dramatic institutionalization of “molecular biology” and the creation of the Department of Biophysics under the presidency of George Beadle that commenced in the early 1960s relied upon a preexisting tradition rather than creating a new molecular phase in Chicago biology. This paper also shows that the interest in topics such as phage genetics and nucleic acid chemistry were continuous developments at Chicago from the early 1950s and did not represent a late interest in these topics.

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