The Department of Biological Sciences was formed in 1966 through the merger of two previous departments, Zoology and Botany. The Zoology Department had a very distinguished history. Thomas Hunt Morgan, Edmund Beecher Wilson, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, extraordinary pioneers in genetics, cell biology, and developmental biology, respectively, were leading faculty who did their seminal work at Columbia from the 1900s to the 1940s. The eminent scientist Cyrus Levinthal was recruited from MIT in 1968 with a mission to build up modern biology at Columbia. The initial focus for the Department was on molecular biology and neurobiology, two areas that remain at the forefront of modern biology. The Department expanded into additional research areas over the past two decades, such as developmental biology, cell biology, structural biology, biophysics, chemical biology, and computational biology.
Photo: The famous "Fly Room" at Columbia University, where the first genetic map was constructed. Thomas Hunt Morgan (center) is surrounded by some of his co-workers (Alfred F. Huettner Photograph Collection, MBL Archives).