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David Baltimore

David Baltimore (b. March 7, 1938) is an American biologist who is a well-known and controversial figure in the sciences. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1975, and served as president of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 1997 to 2006. He currently remains the Robert A. Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech. He also served as president of Rockefeller University from 1990 to 1991, and was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. As is traditional in the AAAS, he now serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.

For ten years beginning mid-1986, Baltimore played a prominent role in escalating a scientific challenge of one of his research papers into an infamous case of alleged research misconduct and cover-up — indeed, a cause célèbre. Although never himself accused of falsifying scientific data, he vigorously defended the paper, himself, and the paper's other authors. Only one co-author, Thereza Imanishi-Kari, was ever accused by the U.S. government of any wrongdoing - falsifying data.


Baltimore was born in New York City and graduated from Great Neck High School in 1956.[1] He earned a BA at Swarthmore College in 1960, and received his Ph.D. at Rockefeller University in 1964. After postdoctoral fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) & Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a non-faculty research position at the Salk Institute, he joined the MIT faculty in 1968.

In 1975 at the age of 37, he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Howard Temin and Renato Dulbecco. The citation reads, "for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell." At the time, Baltimore's greatest contribution to virology was his discovery of reverse transcriptase (RTase). Independently about the same time, Mizutani & Temin had also discovered RTase.[2] RTase is essential for the reproduction of retroviruses such as HIV.

Also in 1975, Baltimore was an organizer of the Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA. In 1982, Baltimore was appointed the founding director of MIT's Whitehead Institute, where he remained through June 1990.

Baltimore then relocated to New York City and assumed the office of the president of Rockefeller University 1 July. After resigning the office 3 December 1991, Baltimore remained on the Rockefeller U. faculty and continued research until Spring 1994. He then rejoined the MIT faculty.

Baltimore has had profound influence on national policy concerning recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic. He has trained many doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, several of whom have enjoyed quite notable and distinguished research careers. Dr. Baltimore is a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Board of Sponsors, National Academy of Sciences USA (NAS), NAS Institute of Medicine (IOM), Amgen, Inc. Board of Directors, BB Biotech AG Board of Directors, National Institutes of Health (NIH) AIDS Vaccine Research Committee (AVRC), and numerous other organizations and their boards. He is married to Dr. Alice S. Huang.

Imanishi-Kari case

To most people outside of the sciences, Baltimore is best known for his role in an affair of alleged scientific misconduct. In 1986, when a Professor of Biology at MIT and Director at Whitehead, Baltimore co-authored a scientific paper on immunology with Thereza Imanishi-Kari, an Assistant Professor of Biology at MIT, and four others.[3] A postdoctoral fellow in Imanishi-Kari's laboratory, Dr. Margot O'Toole, who was not an author, could not reproduce some of the experiments in the paper and discovered laboratory data that contradicted the published data. O'Toole then challenged the authors to explain the discrepancies and ultimately accused Imanishi-Kari of fabricating data in a cover-up. Baltimore initially refused to retract the paper, although he did so four years later with three co-authors (Imanishi-Kari and Moema H. Reis did not sign the retraction).[4] In the meantime, O'Toole soon dropped her challenge but two scientists at NIH (Health & Human Services (HHS)), Walter W. Stewart and Ned Feder, picked it up. Because they and the authors also could not resolve the challenge, NIH, which had funded the contested paper's research, began investigating. It was then also taken up in the United States Congress by Representative John Dingell (D-MI) who aggressively pursued it, eventually calling in U.S. Secret Service (USSS; U.S. Treasury) document examiners. The House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations of the Committee on Energy & Commerce, chaired by Mr. Dingell, held four hearings analyzing the case.[5] In a draft report dated 14 March 1991 and based mainly on USSS forensics findings, NIH's fraud unit, then called the Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI), accused Dr. Imanishi-Kari of falsifying and fabricating data both in the paper and, in a cover-up later, in notebooks. It also harshly criticized Baltimore for failing to embrace O'Toole's challenge. After the report was soon leaked to the press, Baltimore stated he would retract the paper.[6]

The ensuing controversy/uproar was remarkable. It included Baltimore's both apologizing publicly and, later, endorsing strongly the paper publicly (i.e., retracting his retraction). The Rockefeller University faculty subsequently pressured President Baltimore to resign December 1991, after only 1.5 years in the office.[7] July 1992 the US Attorney for the District of MD, who had been investigating the case, announced he would bring neither criminal nor civil charges against Imanishi-Kari. Baltimore then declared he would publish a retraction of his retraction.[8] (No withdrawal of the retraction has appeared in Cell.) An extensive file/analysis of the case assembled/written by Yale University mathematician Serge Lang entitled, "Questions of Scientific Responsibility: The Baltimore Case"[9] was published in 1993. Spring 1994 Baltimore departed the Rockefeller U. faculty and rejoined the MIT Biology faculty.[10] 26 October 1994 OSI's successor, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI; HHS) reviewed the case and found Imanishi-Kari guilty on 19 counts of research misconduct; it recommended she be barred from receiving HHS research grants for 10 years. In June 1996, a HHS appeals panel reviewed the case again and dismissed all charges. Neither OSI nor ORI ever accused Baltimore of research misconduct[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Baltimore has been both admired for defending a junior faculty member at great personal and professional cost and criticized for failing to be a responsible scientist. Because Baltimore asserted himself spokesman of the paper's authors, stonewalled inquiring scientists and investigators, and led an aggressive public relations campaign[11] that included law and lobbyist firms,[12] the affair was named for him. Daniel Kevles' book, The Baltimore Case[13] recounts the affair but is sympathetic to Baltimore and Imanishi-Kari.[14] For a different perspective, see Lang's study (also reprinted updated in his book, Challenges[15]) or Horace Freeland Judson's book, The Great Betrayal[16].

Caltech Presidency

13 May 1997 Baltimore was appointed to the Office of the President, California Institute of Technology (CIT/Caltech).[17] He began serving in the office 15 October 1997 and was inaugurated 9 March 1998.[18]

President Bill Clinton awarded Baltimore the National Medal of Science in 1999 for his numerous contributions to the scientific world. 8 June 2004 Rockefeller U. conferred upon Baltimore its highest honor, Doctor of Science (honoris causa).[19]

3 October 2005 Baltimore resigned the office of the president for not very specific reasons (reported by Los Angeles Times[20] only). "‘This is not a decision that I have made easily,’ Baltimore announced to the Caltech trustees, faculty, staff, and students, ‘but I am convinced that the interests of the Institute will be best served by a presidential transition at this particular time in its history...’"[21] Three days later, Caltech began investigating the work Dr. Luk van Parijs had conducted while training in Baltimore's laboratory.[22] Baltimore had requested the investigation when New Scientist questioned data in papers that van Parijs had authored with Baltimore at Caltech. Concluding March 2007, the investigation found van Parijs alone committed research misconduct and that four papers co-authored by Baltimore, van Parijs, and others require correction.[23]

1 September 2006 engineer and Georgia Tech Provost Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau succeeded Baltimore.[24] Dr. Baltimore remains the Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech and is an active member of the Institute's community.


  1. Kerr, Kathleen. "They Began Here", Newsday. Accessed 23 Oct 2007. "David Baltimore, 1975 Nobel laureate and one of the nation's best-known scientists, is a good case in point. The 60-year-old Baltimore, who graduated from Great Neck High School in 1956..."
  2. includeonly>Judson, Horace F. "No Nobel Prize for Whining", 'New York Times', 20 Oct 2003. Retrieved on 2007-08-03.
  3. Weaver D, Reis MH, Albanese C, Costantini F, Baltimore D, and Imanishi-Kari T (1986) Altered repertoire of endogenous immunoglobulin gene expression in transgenic mice containing a rearranged mu heavy chain gene. Cell 45(2): 247-59 (25 April) [PMID 3084104]
  4. Weaver D, Albanese C, Costantini F, and Baltimore D (1991) Retraction: Altered repertoire of endogenous immunoglobulin gene expression in transgenic mice containing a rearranged mu heavy chain gene. Cell 65(4): 536 (17 May) PMID 2032282
  5. "Fraud in NIH Grant Programs," 12 April 1988; "Scientific Fraud," 4 & 9 May 1989; and "Scientific Fraud (Part 2)," 14 May 1990 (transcript includes 30 April 1990 hearing on Dr. R. Gallo's NIH lab)
  6. Philip J. Hilts, "Crucial Data Were Fabricated In Report Signed by Top Biologist; Nobel Winner Is Asking That Paper Be Retracted" (New York Times, 21 March 1991, Pp. A1, B10)
  7. Hall, Stephen S. (1991) David Baltimore's Final Days. Science 254(5038): 1576-9 (13 Dec.) PMID 1749930 or here
  8. Malcolm Gladwell, "Prosecutors Halt Scientific Fraud Probe; Researcher Baltimore Claims Vindication, Plans to 'Unretract' Paper" (Washington Post, 14 July 1992, P. A3); Hamilton, D.P. (1992) U.S. attorney decides not to prosecute Imanishi-Kari. Science 257(5068): 318 (17 July) PMID 1321499
  9. Lang S. (1993) Questions of Scientific Responsibility: The Baltimore Case. Ethics & Behavior 3(1): 3-72 PMID 11653082
  10. Natalie Angier, "Embattled Biologist Will Return to M.I.T." (New York Times, 19 May 1992, P. C5)
  11. Judy Foreman, "Baltimore Speaks Out on Disputed Study in Letter Sent to Colleagues Around the Nation; He Calls for Protection Against ‘threats’ to Scientific Freedom" (Boston Globe, 23 May 1988, P. 31); Larry Thompson, "Science Under Fire; Behind the Clash Between Congress and Nobel Laureate David Baltimore" (Washington Post "Health" journal, 5(19): 12-6 (9 May 1989)); Baltimore D. (1989) Baltimore's Travels. Issues in Science and Technology 5(4): 48-54 (Summer) page at IS&T; Daniel S. Greenberg, "Squalor in Science: A Review of the ‘Baltimore’ Case" (Science & Government Report, 1 April 1991, Pp. 1-3, 4-6); S. Lang, op. cit., Part IV, §1, "Attacks on the Dingell Subcommittee"
  12. J. Foreman, "MIT Institute Used Funds Wrongly" (Boston Globe, 17 April 1991, P. 1)
  13. Daniel J. Kevles, The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, Inc.; 1998)
  14. Gunsalus, C.K. (1999) Review of Kevles' "The Baltimore Case..." New England Journal of Medicine 340(3): 242 [21 Jan.]; Greenberg, D.S. Letter (ScienceWriters, Spring 1999, p. 26); Shashok, K. (1999) The Baltimore affair: a different view. International Microbiology 2(4): 275-8 [Dec.]; Lang, S. "On A Yale Kevles Appointment" (paid advertisement) (Yale Daily News, 3 Feb. 2000, pp. 6-9); Moran, G. (2002) Review of Kevles' "The Baltimore Case..." J. Information Ethics 11(1): 90-3; McCutchen, C.W. (2002) "The Baltimore Case" Misrepresents a Major Piece of Evidence. J. Information Ethics 11(1): 5-6
  15. Serge Lang, Challenges (New York: Springer-Verlag; 1997) Book also includes Lang's analysis of the obstructions to publishing "...Scientific Responsibility": "Questions of Editorial Responsibility: Publication of the Baltimore Article," pp. 341-60.
  16. Horace Freeland Judson, The Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science (Orlando: Harcourt; 2004)
  17. Caltech Media Relations, "Nobel Prize-winning Biologist David Baltimore Named President of the California Institute of Technology," 13 May 1997 [1] or w/ photos & links; Richard Saltus, "MIT Laureate to Lead Caltech: Baltimore Weathered Data Dispute" (Boston Globe, 14 May 1997, P. A3); Robert Lee Hotz, "Prominent Biology Nobelist Chosen to Head Caltech; Controversial and outspoken scientist David Baltimore says his appointment reflects school's desire for bigger role in nation's scientific debates." (Los Angeles Times, 14 May 1997, Pp. A1, 22, 23); unsigned editorial, "A Luminary of Science for Caltech's Presidency; Nobelist Baltimore has the needed background and clout." (LA Times, 15 May 1997, P. B8); R.L. Hotz, "Biomedicine's Bionic Man; Among the Nation's Most Distinguished - and Controversial - Scientists, Caltech's David Baltimore Now Faces the Dual Challenge of Leading a Premier Research University and Vanquishing AIDS." (LA Times Magazine, 28 Sept. 1997, Pp. 10-13, 34-5)
  18. Caltech Media Relations, "New Caltech President To Be Honored with Formal Inauguration, Birthday Festschrift," 23 February 1998 [2]
  19. Bhattacharjee, Y., ed. (2004) The Balance of Justice. Science 304(5679): 1901 (25 June) [3]
  20., "Caltech President Baltimore Announces Retirement," 3 October 2005 & R.L. Hotz, "Caltech President Who Raised School's Profile to Step Down" (LA Times, 4 October 2005, P. A1)
  21. Caltech Media Relations, "Baltimore to Retire as Caltech President; Will Remain at Institute as Biology Professor," 3 October 2005 [4]
  22. Lois E. Beckett, "MIT Professor Fired for Faking Data; MIT biologist and HMS grad may also have falsified data in work at Harvard" (Harvard Crimson, 31 October 2005) [5]
  23. Reich, E.S. (2007) Scientific misconduct report still under wraps. New Scientist ?(2361): 16 (24 Nov.) [6]
  24. Caltech Media Relations, "Caltech Presidential Inauguration - A Student Affair," 30 April 2007 [7]

See also

  • Other books discussing Baltimore and/or the Baltimore Affair/Imanishi-Kari Case
    • Marcel C. LaFollette, Stealing into Print: Fraud, Plagiarism, and Misconduct in Scientific Publishing (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press; 1992)
    • Robert Bell, Impure Science: Fraud, Compromise, and Political Influence in Scientific Research (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 1992)
    • Judy Sarasohn, Science on Trial: The Whistle-blower, the Accused, and the Nobel Laureate (New York: St. Martin's Press; 1993) - Book entirely devoted to Baltimore Affair
    • Donald Kennedy, Academic Duty (Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press; 1997)
    • Shane Crotty, Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore's Life in Science (Berkeley: University of California Press; 2001)
  • Baltimore classification
  • 73079 Davidbaltimore

External links

  • Moshe Kam's "Evaluation and Presentation of Experimental Data; The Ethics Component," Module 2, "The Baltimore Affair" at Gateway Engineering Education Coalition. Extensive collection of news articles and documents concerning the Imanishi-Kari/Baltimore Case, including S. Lang's "Questions of Scientific Responsibility: The Baltimore Case" (Challenges, pp. 239-339; presented w/out final section, "Postscript: Ruling by the Appeals Board," pp. 337-9), Congressional testimony, and Baltimore's infamous 9 Sept. 1986 letter to Dr. Herman Eisen orchestrating a cover-up.
  • Caltech Biology Division Faculty member page
  • Baltimore Laboratory at Caltech site
  • Autobiography at
  • Initial reports of ribonucleic acid-dependent DNA polymerase activity:
  1. Baltimore D (1970) RNA-dependent DNA polymerase in virions of RNA tumour viruses. Nature Vol. 226, No. 5252, Pp. 1209-11 (27 June). Entrez PubMed 4316300
  2. Temin HM and Mizutani S (1970) RNA-dependent DNA polymerase in virions of Rous sarcoma virus. Nature Vol. 226, No. 5252, Pp. 1211-13 (27 June). PMID 4316301
  • Department of Health & Human Services, Departmental Appeals Board, Research Integrity Adjudications Panel Thereza Imanishi-Kari, Ph.D. appeal ruling (Docket No. A-95-33, Decision No. 1582, 21 June 1996; Presentation missing footnotes 169-235 & footnote reference nos. 170-235).
Preceded by:
Thomas Eugene Everhart
President of the California Institute of Technology
Succeeded by:
Jean-Lou Chameau