MY FATHER, SIMON FLEXNER

In 1976, Rockefeller University staged a symposium on its predecessor the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Starting with my father, as the creating director of the Institute, they invited me to open the session with a familial account. Rereading for this volume, I feel embarrassed by how much I have talked about myself and wondered whether I ought to suppress. But then I remembered that Rockefeller University has for more than twenty years distinguished my speech with a listing in Books in Print.

I was born in 1908, when The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was seven years old. I hesitate to claim that I was conscious of the Institute in my cradle, but as far back as anything registered in my memory, the Institute was there. It was indeed the most pervasive phenomenon, outside of my own personal life, with which I grew up.

I must confess that my childhood attitude toward the Institute was simplistic. I knew that the institution had not existed before my father became the director. I knew that its beginnings had been small, and that under his guidance it had grown great. I knew that he had contributed to that greatness with his own scientific discoveries. He was still at the helm. It was natural for me not to take into adequate consideration the contributions of others.

The biblical statement that "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house" was not exemplified by my father. I was brought up to revere him as a great man and, as a member of my particular generation, I could do so naturally, without the resentment a child might feel today. All the adults with whom I associated respected my father. The admiration of our German governess for the "Herr Direktor" was indeed so comically extreme that family memory cherished the occasion upon which Fräulein laughed at the great man. While greasing the automobile, my elder brother, suitably named William Welch Flexner, handled his implement--it was known as a grease

____________________
An earlier version of this essay appeared in Institute to University: A Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Colloquium ( New York: The Rockefeller University, 1976), pp. 3-12.

-297-

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