Alexander Hollaender, director of the Biology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and professor of radiation biology at the University of Tennessee, was born in Germany in 1898. He immigrated to the United States, where he studied physical chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, earning his Ph.D. in 1931. Serving as senior biophysicist at the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Scientific Research and Development until 1945, he studied the interactions of ultraviolet and ionizing radiation on biological systems. His experiments provided the first clear indication that genes are composed largely of nucleic acid.
As Director of the Oak Ridge Biology Division, 1946-66, Hollaender recruited an unsurpassed team of radiation biologists, managing multidisciplinary studies of the effects of radiation on organisms. He edited Radiation Biology, Chemical Mutagens, and other professional studies and journals and fostered biological research at universities throughout the Southeast and abroad. The encouragement he provided for biological research in Latin America and the scientific conferences he organized at Gatlinburg were major professional contributions.
Elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hollaender received many awards and honorary degrees. He was a founder and president of the National Council for Research Planning in Biological Sciences in Washington, D.C., where he died in 1986. His papers are preserved in the Special Collections at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.