Liane Russell and Cindy Kendrick

Recorded November 5, 2010 Archived November 5, 2010 39:34 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX007396


Liane “Lee” Russell (87) talks to her friend Cindy Kendrick (53) about her life and scientific accomplishments.

Subject Log / Time Code

LR was born and grew up in Vienna, Austria. “It was a very conventional and serene childhood.”-LR
LR left Austria at 14 when Nazis invaded the country. Family fled to Czech Republic and eventually England, where LR bore the German blitzkrieg.
Family secured passage to United States, via Argentina, in June 1941.
As a junior at Hunter College, LR attended a summer research camp in Maine. She fell in love with genetics and became a geneticist. She also fell in love with her research advisor, who was in the midst of a divorce.
Coupled settled in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they could both find work as scientists.
LR performed groundbreaking research in genetic mutations.
LR developed a passion for the environment as a child. In Tennessee, she became active in stopping construction of a dam and formed the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning conservation group.


  • Liane Russell
  • Cindy Kendrick

Recording Location

MobileBooth East

Partnership Type



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00:05 My name is Cindy Kendrick. I'm 53 years old. Today's date is November 5th 2010. We are in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I'm here with my friend Lee Russell.

00:18 My name is Leanne Russell, but my nickname is Lee 87 and today is November 5th, 2010. And when we meeting in Knoxville, and I'm being interviewed by my good friend Cindy Kendrick.

00:37 Lee, can you start out? Where were you born? And what are the what are the some of the most Vivid memories from your youth? I would have sworn in Vienna Austria and stay with lots of vivid memories. I had a very Serene and stimulating childhood for the first fourteen years of my life though. The outside influences took us to be more and more threatening during that time, but I was leaving with a wonderful family my parents and my sister I had a brother when I was 10 years old. So he was almost of a different generation. We lived in a very lovely apartment fairly near the center of town, but overlooking a garden of a Palais. So it was a Green Vista from from

01:37 Apartment I went to all the conventional Schools starting with actually before school with a Montessori kindergarten which was quite new at that time. It was just being tried and it was a very stimulating way to spend an early childhood. We spent during the school year. We were living in Vienna and during the vacation summer vacation. We sometimes often rented a little house in different places in the country. So I had some experiences in the country to had lots of

02:25 Lovely weekends in the nearby Vienna woods and sports like hiking on the weekend skiing in the winter with go skating to the skating rink in Vienna and it is

02:48 You know the weight go to after I got old enough we could go to offer us and concerts and plays. It was just a very conventional and Serene child.

03:02 Sounds lovely was there someone who was particularly influential in your early life. I would say probably my father was very very influential in the sense that he was and what he actually did he spend as much time as he could with us, although he works full-time, but he would come home for 4 for midday meal which was a main meal and he'd spend all weekend with us and he was very much.

03:37 Interested or influential in the sense that he thought that my sister and I should not be the conventional pretty girls who know not not do all the girl type of things that we should do everything that the toys could do and and not spend time on clothes and makeup and all that kind of stuff. He he made us feel kind of superior to the girls who were doing the and also he haven't been a scientist had a very scientific frame of mind then he would explain things very clearly and not be emotional about things. So in that sense, he was a good influence. He always thought I should end up being some kind of a famous scientist or something like that.

04:37 Another person who was very influential and she was the the woman who ran a summer camp that I went to when I think when I was about 12 or 13 for the first time I ever had a couple two or three summers in a row and she got me very much interested in public affairs because I had always had a strong desire to a strong sense of justice and I felt very badly about, you know, oppressed people oppressed animals started with animals and then people and

05:21 A she gave a sort of an ouch that to that to make me realize what was going on in the world and is it that they were other people who felt the way I did?

05:31 So I think those two people are very influential. When did you leave Austria? And what was that? Like actually it was when I was about 14 and just a little over fourteen it was because the Nazi Germany invaded Austria in the spring in the early spring of 1938 and we were very fortunate fortunate to be able to leave about four to five weeks after that but not until we had seen what was going on. Of course. This right has been looming for quite some time for all of your up at particularly. Maybe pretty sure that I'll stay what's going to be the first place to be.

06:26 To be invaded and so I remember very shortly after it happened across a problem was that they were being welcomed with open arms by the ocean population and that was not very good to see.

06:45 But the one of the first things I remember is my sister and I are being put to work tearing up books and flushing them down the toilet because it was very dangerous to just even own some books cuz they had all the public book burnings. We saw looking out the window. We saw people being dragged out out-of-doors storekeepers and being made to scrub the sidewalks and I was just just as a degradation and so we were very lucky that the Nazi officer who decided to appropriate my father's business my father. My father died happened to represent some of some foreign companies in Vienna some particularly British chemical companies and this man who was who was taking

07:45 Appropriating. My dad's business was very anxious to keep the

07:52 To be also be designated the representative. So he wanted my dad to go and establish the liaison and that's why he made it possible for us to leave quite early.

08:07 So we flew out on one of the very early planes that wasn't very much playing service in those days. This was in the spring of 38. We flew first to Prague and from Prague to Brussels, and I'm from Brussels. So baby, we stayed in Brussels for several weeks. We went on to England and lived in England for three years, which was not there in 38 and the war started and 39 and September of 39.

08:49 My sister and I went to school in England to a very nice so

08:58 Girls score we had been in the girls schools in piano. So I never had anything other than girls schools and this is a girls school in England, but when the boys started actually even before the boys started there had been plans to evacuate the London schools to the country and the plans that we made didn't come about exactly as they were made. Originally. We actually all the schools March to the nearest train station to Garth on the first train and go as far out as long as we could go.

09:37 And we ended up eventually after a temporary stop. We ended up in a town called brick Hampstead, which was just north of London and Hartford share and we're boarded all the school kids were boarded with local families the school store occupied the premises of another local school and Oscar we would have it in the afternoon of the local kids would go there in the morning.

10:13 So and of course this was during the war and the Germans at the time they were bombing the Midlands the factory towns in the Midlands. Are they able to fly across over where we lived so we weren't directly bomb, but sometimes they were on their way back from having Farms places, like carpentry. They withdraw they were jettisoned the remaining balance on the way back. So they would be stray bombs coming down once in a while and my parents were living in London. And so when I went to see their my experience some of the Blitz

10:57 Boyfriend

10:59 Unangan experienced some of the blitz some of the Blitz and So eventually we decided

11:15 To to move to the United States. My dad had been working for the company that that she had represent represented. But the place the factory that he was overseeing bus bombed to Smithereens. So that sort of talk to him after I ate at his job.

11:38 And he in London and it was very very interesting in in and also kind of scared and when I went to see my parents the first time we went to visit some butts before the blitz actually started and I have a out on the shopping errant when the first air raid sirens sounded and I got into they had spilled some above-ground shelters. So I got into one of these above-ground shelter favorite read. The only thing they would protect you against would be flying debris and stuff like that. And I stayed in that I was in there by myself if it's just a little break structure on a street corner and I was in there for about an hour and then deoxy astounded and nothing ever happened, but then the next time was an actual

12:38 Air raid and by that time we got into what was a card and Anderson shelter.

12:47 Babe, they were built in people's backyards. Just dug into the ground was told of like a big like a big sewer pipe kind of thing with us part hairstyles on top of it. And so we used that during Air Raids until it got filled with water because it wasn't built right we had Knoxville to do, you know, so supportive would not feel the shelter and after his the Anderson shelter got filled with water and we would shelter under the stair Under the Stairs which was just far away from flying glass and so forth. Were you scared during this time? I don't think it was as scared as I probably should have been lucky. We didn't have any clothes hits most of the hits and Lung and we're on a more industrial portions of London.

13:46 And so that you know, so nice in the shells of a kind of interesting because everybody and his brother was get in there and you've made some interesting people and my brother at that time or some how old was he 5 years old and 6 years old something like that. So

14:06 He was somebody here at the be taken care of and it was just a Monday and things are you how are you going to keep dry? How are you going to keep warm enough? And would you have enough lights with you for the night? Because they all happen at night.

14:24 San Diego Sanchez in their me, we are somehow secured passage to the States, but he was not possible the rental passenger ships going across so we got onto a converted to an art liner which went down to Argentina to pick up beef from Argentina to bring back to Brighton, but it went down an empty so they took a few passengers going to Argentina and then you know that go back to break them filled up with beef. So from after we get down there we got another ship Destin America.

15:13 Taking us to the yard and this was in June but 41. Yeah, I was doing a 41 so it was before the states into the war. So then I had another six months and then after I got back and got to New York, then then the states got into the war to a but in a very different way so very much more distance away.

15:44 Did you continue your schooling in the state's? Yes, I did. Then to Hunter College. I had finished high school and in England and I got into Hunter College in New York City. It has since become part of the City University of New York. It was an independent project at that time for of the city one of the four city colleges again. It was and it was the head very high standards because there's a competitive it was free free to residents of New York, which was the only reason Ivan, you know, I managed to go there and I had to pass all sorts of tests to get in there. But actually Foods in England where by the time you get out of high school to English.

16:44 You really knew a lot more. I think then then what's needed for getting admitted to college in New York? So then I went to to Hunter for the next three and a half years.

17:00 What was your career field? And how did you get into it?

17:05 My life is kind of a long way around because

17:11 Originally, I think I'm at my dad's influence. He was always hoping I would be a chemistry cuz he was a chemist so I became a chemistry major when I when I registered voters Hunter.

17:28 But I think I very soon.

17:31 I wasn't very satisfied with was just chemistry and I think I decided I wanted to go into medicine. So and that was partly my wanting to do you know how people kind of thing not that much of a

17:48 A career choice in in terms of other other aspect so they may I became also a biology minor and

18:01 Going to Hunter College was just in the city in a big tall building surrounded by a lot of other building. So it's no campus really. So one day I wind up in the elevator and go and I had to wait wait for the elevator and while I was waiting for the elevator looked at the bulletin board and at the bulletin board notice from a laboratory in Maine that ran a summer school.

18:34 And that summer score changed my whole life because it's determine my career and determined all sorts of other things but

18:46 That there I

18:50 For the first time ever really did some had an opportunity to do some research. I was a sophomore at the time and at that time summer program has ran out as common as they are now. In fact, they were pretty rare. This one was very very unusual in the sense that they the kids. They took their also form of us had breast sign to staff members in a laboratory and each one got their own little research project, which was not just like acting and assistance to the person who was there but really doing their own independent research.

19:38 And this is a a

19:42 It was supposed to be a cancer research. Laboratory Isis the Jackson Memorial laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine and it was started but he was funded by people who were interested in cancer research and it was the work was done on primarily on my almost totally on my

20:08 But the people but the staff members of which shivering we're not very many of the time many of somewhere at your dad is doing Mouse genetics work. So I happened to be assigned to a staff member during a mouse genetics project this place very far from cancer research it dealt with the cancer of pigment hair pigment in my that was my first time at work and

20:47 We also had various tutorial space but different stuff my mother forgot to know what else is going on and it was just incredibly exciting to realize that you were doing something that you were. However small it was it was something that was not known before whatever you were going to do find out that summer was something new.

21:14 And the person I was assigned to his name was Bill Russell. He also had designed the whole summer program and it was sort of running the whole program and he happened to be very much.

21:33 Down on medicine not medicine in general, but

21:39 The way this way medical people we're not really interested in basic questions. And we're off and doing things just things that they had learned by rote and and not going back to the real basic information. And I think it was his influence that made me decide not to go into medicine but to go into research.

22:11 Will tell me more about your relationship with Bill.

22:15 Well, it develops into a lot of other things too. I came back a second you and then I said I do and it had a very long story short. We you know, we ended up after the t43 was the first year one.

22:37 In 47, we finally got married, but it was a pretty rocky roads to get there.

22:47 The Rocky Run with being the fact that he had that he was married. And so

22:57 My relationship with him has

23:01 How much is an incredible run?

23:06 Weaver and he helped me get integrated score help me essentially.

23:17 Find the really good way to do work.

23:23 And we did we had so many things. We enjoy doing together. Even what even starting from the first year I was up there. We would go on canoe camping trips and

23:41 Do you know all sorts of?

23:45 Interesting things like

23:48 Reading

23:52 I'm discussing books and other fails and 50 particularly going out getting outside of the head going up the lakes and rivers in Maine with your very beautiful.

24:13 Yeah, I think most mostly those things. How did you get to Oakridge?

24:20 Well, it's obvious. We had to leave the Jackson lab because of because of the fact of the divorce and

24:30 So he started looking for jobs in which I too would be able to have a job looking looking for office. So he interviewed quite a few places. He would have had some very good opportunities as a number of places but almost all of those had nepotism rules. That means I could not have worked in the same place and by that time I was very close to getting my Ph.D. So I I was and am in a condition of being able to work if I if I got a job eventually

25:15 When he came to Oakridge, he found that there was no nepotism cruel things that they would welcome my working as well as his and I think that was the main reason he chose Oakridge over some of the other officers had I turned out to be a wonderful place to be so we're so lucky you came here. Tell me about your children.

25:38 Is he I decided that we wouldn't start a family until after I got my degree. So I worked on that for when I came to Oakridge. I was so

25:54 I a c i was two years away from almost two years away from finishing my degree. I had done all my class work at the University of Chicago, but I had not done my thesis work partially because my mentor at Chicago who was a totally brilliant person, but not really a very people-oriented person and he was not a practical person. So he was

26:28 Not the kind of person who is good at deciding research projects. He said something to me that turned out to be pretty impossible to do and when I came to Oakridge, I started my own work and convinced him that that was a good project to do so actually almost all my dissertation research work was done. I asked I came to Oakridge and I had another year and a half of that before I finally got my degree. And so then my family was not started until right after that which was she is after came to Oakridge. I had my first child was a boy. I had to end and two years later. I had a daughter.

27:21 Tell her that that was some.

27:24 That was a good decision. I think.

27:29 Your your career has yielded many awards and honors important discoveries and research papers. Will you tell me about one of your most gratifying career accomplishments?

27:47 Yes, I think they were do I have time to tell you a couple?

27:52 Yes, okay.

27:57 The first thing was was almost accidental and I have to tell you about the kind of research and a little bit of detail. I started out Bill's main task when he came to Oakridge bus to set up a program to determine the genetic has radiation because there was nothing really known about radiation. You bought the nature and magnitude of radiation hazards would be two people autograph having been done in the past on fruit flies and on Mary's plants. So this was a large Mouse genetics program with a very large Mouse Selah tea to induce mutations Booth radiation.

28:57 And to a tip to find out the magnitude of the risk, the number of mutations the kind of medications things of that sort. So I thought that I could fit into this by working on a different kind of mutations because his program was directed to mutations that were transmitted to Future Generations. So they they were so-called germline mutations. And I thought that I would look at the same very same genes that he was looking at but in body cells rather than reproductive cells and so this is called a somatic mutation project and to do that I had to irradiated embryos because I need it for the sales of a mutated.

29:57 2 * 2

30:00 To giving a big enough patch of tissue that could be seen and measured.

30:06 So I was a radiating embryos at all salsa to stages and in a process. It turned out that many of them ended up very abnormal. So I got sidetracked into working on embryonic and abnormalities radiation-induced embryonic abnormalities. And that's got to be quite a Big Field are the other thing that second thing that I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed doing was I was very interested in not just counting imitations but looking at the nature of the mutations and I got into the basic genetics of offside and during the course of that without giving you any of the details. I got to work on the sex chromosomes. And so we found among other things that females had although they had two X chromosomes. Are they one of the most Act

31:06 So each female but it's actually a mosaic with one or the other X chromosomes active in some cells and sort of as a corollary of that work. It turned out that the Y chromosome was what determines sex in mammals which is unlike what had been known and fruit flies where most of the genetic bracket method enormous Discovery in switching topics for decades. You have tirelessly work to protect natural lands and resources. How did you develop such a strong passion for the environment? I think I started more of this is a kid already and in some of the hikes we did. I was very very very very loving the land and I will have its known as the kid who walked in front of everybody. So people wouldn't step on the little animals brand of the trash.

32:06 I would looking and pick them up and take them out of the trash. But anyway, when we got everything here quite some time and I got to know some of the surrounding landscape but not really all of it. And somebody we knew at the lab took us down. They Over the River and the Cumberlands about less than an hour from Oak Ridge on a canoe trip hardly anybody in the world knew about how beautiful it was. It was very hard to get to and we absolutely fell in love with it was just an unbelievable places like deep gorge Sandstone Gorge very wild and about three months after we had first been there. Will you read about TVA planning this damn it?

32:59 So you would have been totally inundated under under a big rest of her and we decided to fight that damn project A+ a very difficult and long fight, but it eventually turned out successful. We not only stopped them but we managed to get some positive protection in the form of having the river designated a wild and Scenic River.

33:32 And it wasn't too long there after that. We started working on the Big South Fork which was another and bigger River also in the north Cumberlands. It also respect and by that time it was a very different kind of fight but it also ended up successful and not only it was protected not only is the river itself but the land around it.

34:00 What kinds of things did you do to win that protection where we managed very very early we were very naive about it. But we met with Harvey broom. Hope is mono sound does whales in the society and he said you've got a formal organization and so we found this group which has since become the Tennessee citizens for Wilderness planning. We founded in 1966 primarily at that time to win the obit battle, but it's still going after 44 years and it's been doing lots and lots of things since then it has fought strip-mining. It is fighting for Wilderness protection elsewhere.

34:51 Tell me about some of your favorite places.

34:55 And why you love them?

34:58 Not a naturally the Cumberland plateau in the Cumberland mountains. It's an unbelievably beautiful area. Fortunately not yet too well-known and therefore fortunately not yet overrun, but it's getting there and it needs to be protected list has the greatest biological diversity of almost any place in the United States. It's got beautiful Rivers Running. So gorgeous and forests, which are unlike anything else.

35:37 And so that has been one of our big big battles to keep her North Cumberlands protected. I have been to many other beautiful places in the world. I love main of course because that's where I spent a lot of my significant part of my use. We we're lucky to be able to travel all over the world in the 80s and 90s. We went almost to the North Pole and almost to the South Pole and we've been up and down South America and we spent all of the states. That's so many people don't know what a beautiful country we've got. We've got this very lovely country in such a very country, you know, the Red Rock areas of Utah. I just fantastic.

36:30 This is something we need to protect. So I think it's the most beautiful country and but there's lots of other beautiful places in the world. I think, you know Hike The Run.

36:46 Ron Dayne apparently area and we've been to Indonesia, which is very different.

36:53 Song it's it's a lovely world. How would you like to be remembered?

37:03 Oh, I think maybe it's somebody who

37:08 Who?

37:10 Protect brick to protect

37:14 Protect our world the physical world and also the human world I think maybe sad.

37:27 How did you manage to balance when you were so busy? How did you manage to balance family career and all your other interests?

37:37 I'm not sure that I really balanced as much as far as my children. I was very very fortunate in finding a wonderful woman about the time that my first child was born. Who am I totally trusted to children with you and over and I was not even as it's where I can rent a burnout at school. She was her name is Inez, and it's Urban and she was just a perfect person to I couldn't have done what I did without her.

38:15 I I was able to work and even take my work home and of course later on and when

38:25 But it's not so much later. I'm with my cycling labor early teenage us. That's when I got into the a conservation activities. And so that took up much of the time that I should have been spending on work. And so I really didn't balance. I think people who really got along to the higher parts of signs are the ones who spend a whole days of knights on it and think of nothing else and I didn't do that. I already spend a lot of time with my children to spend a lot of time on the conservation work.

39:02 One last question if you were to be reincarnated, what would you like to be in your next life?

39:11 I was thinking her one-time of some other animal, but I think I'd probably like to come back as a human, but somebody who doesn't waste a lot of time on unnecessary things. We've had a wonderful life and much more to come. Thank you.