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Robley C. Williams

Robley Cook Williams (October 13, 1908 - January 3, 1995) was an early biophysicist and virologist. He served as the first President of the Biophysical Society.


Williams attended Cornell University on an athletic scholarship, completing a B.S. in 1931 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1935. He was also selected for membership in the Quill and Dagger society. Williams began his career as a researcher as an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan, and from 1945, associate professor of physics. A growing fascination with viruses led him to leave Michigan in 1950, when he was invited to the University of California, Berkeley by Wendell Stanley, to serve as a professor at the newly created Department of Virology.


Together with Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat, Williams studied the Tobacco mosaic virus, and showed that a functional virus could be created out of purified RNA and a protein coat. That same year, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Williams was involved in the early use of electron micrography in biology.[2] Working with Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff he helped develop a technique to take three-dimensional electron microscope images of bacteria using a "metal shadowing" technique. He also helped develop biophysical techniques such as freeze etching and particle-counting by the spray-drop technique.


His son, Robley C. Williams, Jr., is a professor emeritus of biological science at Vanderbilt University