Revised 97 Feb 18
History of Indiana Biolab
By Harold Eddleman, Ph.D, President of Indiana Biolab
It is interesting to trace the origins of American Businesses. A roadside stand selling a few dozen surplus ears of corn gradually became the huge entertainment farming complex of the Huber Family of Starlight, Indiana. Leading meat packing companies began by a family killing a beef in warm weather for their own use and peddling the extra meat around town from a horse and wagon to avoid its loss by rotting in the heat. Since Indiana Biolab grew out of my childhood experiments and caters to teaching childern, it seems fitting to trace its origin in some detail to show youngsters how one biotechnology company got started long before biotechnology was a common word.
When I was a kid, I read a suggestion by the president of Cities Service (now Citgo) that young people read autobiographies as preparation for life. I have noticed many leading scientists and business leaders cite reading autobiographies as one of their useful activities. Therefore, I have invited many scientists to write short autobiographies for the readers of this site. Until they respond, I will start things by writing how Indiana Biolab and this site got started.
I feel Indiana Biolab began one day in 1937 when my mother was cleaning dry beans for cooking. She handed the discolored beans to me suggesting, 'If you plant these, they will come up.' I planted them in a shallow hole by the cellar door where we kids played. I was captivated by their germination. In those days I knew nothing of seed storage proteins or genetic engineering of bean oils to meet industrial needs, but the more I learned about seed germination the more I marveled at the miracle. I continued planting seeds and a year later when we moved to a farm, my father found me planting peach seeds hoping to get trees. He gave me a row in the garden and by the sixth grade, I had a small orchard of 20 trees and was caring for neighbors' trees for 1/2 the fruit. Fruit breeding is still my main interest and my 1946 blackberry is still the most dependable in this region.
At age 11, I began growing garden seeds to sell locally. I made seed packets and painted colored pictures on them. When I was in the 8th grade, the school principal embrassed me by telling a class that he wouldn't be surprised if I owned a famous seed company some day. My freshman literature book had a story about how Pfister had hybridized corn about 15 years earlier. I had been hybridizing plants a couple years and began inbreeding popcorn to develop inbreeds as Pfister had. During the summer after my sophomore year, Ralph Rothrock, a neighbor who was helping me put hay in the loft as Dad hauled it from the field, asked me where I was going to college. I was astounded, me, go to college? That costs money. He said I ought to think about it. I did and asked the my principal if the school could offer the algebra and geometry required for admission to Purdue.
During my junior and senior years, one of my favorite pastimes was poring over the Purdue Catalog trying to find some way my $150 savings could meet the freshmen year cost of several hundred dollars. It was clearly an impossible dream. Yet, it was a dream I kept working on. I realized Dad wasn't using the two brooder houses in winter and I began raising chickens in them. The chickens got sick and one day I skipped school and bicycled 30 miles round-trip to English, site of a local hatchery, to buy sulfa drugs which did not help, but I made about $100 off the chickens because Dad never cashed the check I paid him for the grains they ate. I studied the few small scholarships available, and I longed to win the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, which would pay all one's college expenses. I spent much of my time trying to think of a science project which might win the Westinghouse. LINK HERE IF THEY have a site.
Our school library had only a few old science textbooks, and one very nice chemistry book which I read and studied cover to cover. My main sources were agricultural bulletins from Purdue and USDA which were free. I finally had a 14-inch stack of those bulletins and I had read each of them several times--I still have them. Many of my students have used them. I had been reading them ever since the 5th grade when I began trying to learn to graft and bud scions on my seeding fruit trees. I loved nature study and spent hours in the woods watching birds and the Farmers Bulletins helped me learn which birds were most beneficial and which insects were harmful. I was having a wonderful time watching birds, trying to invent a Westinghouse winner, and doing much of the farming when Dad was plumbing or wiring a house in the local area.
During the eighth grade, the Moorman Feeds salesman had warned me I was violating the Indiana Seed Law by selling untested garden seeds. I wrote the State Chemist for the details of testing. I learned the law only applied to seed packages larger than I was selling, but I began testing all my seeds exactly as the law required so my customers were getting tested seeds. While reading those bulletins I got interested in weed seed identification and began a collection of weed and crop seeds. For the happy ending to this hobby see Completed Science Projects . Eventually, I did make it to Purdue University, School of Agriculture, Lafayette, Indiana, and found my childhood experiments were a great background for college studies. For the details of how I got to Purdue and paid for it see paying for college.
You may be reading this to learn the history of Indiana Biolab, but I am writing this to help you see how you can get started on a long term series of science experiments that will be useful to you. Lots of kids have an interest in science but don't get anything started. Your experiments can help you just as mine helped me. Most discoveries come unexpectedly. If you start bigger experiments, you have more chances of having an interesting surprise. Therefore, start a couple dozen water jars rather than just one. The results of every experiment will help you plan another. Once you get going, it will be easy to think of things to do. Eventually, after a few months or years, the big prize-winning experiment will occur to you. Some of my college experiences are retold in The Academic Pathway. Now, back to the story of Indiana Biolab.
After my military service, I stayed in Europe and traveled 10,000 miles by moped visiting farms, museums, colleges, and research stations. At night, I stayed in youth hostels which were cheap and offered conversation with kids from many countries as we cooked our own meals and cleaned the building. In places like northern Finland I camped out on the tundra. Finally in September 1958, I was at Salem High School, Salem, Indiana, greeting my first classes of bright biology and chemistry students and eager to use my ten-year long preparation for science teaching. At Salem, the kids and I established a genetics project to study the genetics of Tribolium castaneum, the chestnut red flour beetle, and published our findings in international scientific journals. While a hundred people were working with T. castaneum, worldwide, half the known mutants were discovered or rediscovered by our highschool research group. After teaching chemistry and biology 3 years, I realized I would never be happy as an educational dropout and returned to Purdue where I completed my Ph. D. in biophysics and then did two years postdoctoral research at California Institue of Technology, Pasadena, California. Those seven years were devoted to discovering how genes control development in the bacterial virus T4. You will be able to learn much about viruses at this web site after I get those pages written. This site will offer you the opportunity to become a mini expert on bacteriophages if you wish.
Returning to Indiana, I began organizing Indiana Biolab by buying used lab equipment from colleges and hospitals. I also taught highschool science a few more years and worked on whatever genetics and microbiology my interests and equipment made possible. At Indiana Biolab, I have spend 27 additional years on breeding corn and small fruit cultivars and working with microbes. During that time I continually acquired more cultures until I had one of the largest private microbiology collections in the world. Mostly I have spent my time helping my son and others develop their interests in computers and other areas of science. Recently, local dailing Internet Service became available here by the efforts of Ed Ries, a fine young man who organized Disknet.com. Those are some of the events of the last 59 years which led to the pages you are reading!
During the last 10 years, the main business of Indiana Biolab has been growing virus-free sweetpotato, strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry plants in baby food jars on sterile agar medium. The plantlets are then placed in soil in a greenhouse under water mist to form roots. Farmers use these plants to establish fields free of all pests and diseases. They remain free of diseases if natural sources of infection are absent. Field testing by North Carolina State University established that Indiana Biolab sweetpotato plants yielded three times as much as the best North Carolina certified plants. Unfortuneately, for my income, their seed certification service has copied my methods and used my strains to put me out of business. That is why I have time to write these pages!
I am writing this autobiography to help young people see how fun it is to begin a career in science. If you e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)and tell me what you found useful, I will expand this page in coming months.This web site will have a place for low priced ads by young people (or anyone else) to begin their businesses. Start writing your ad now and begin earning money for college!