The performances of researchers are attributed by the scientific community in various ways. In the academic world, social networks play a significant role; good networking guidesFootnote 27 and thus the visibility of academics.Footnote 28 With regard to the visibility of the scientist Lore Zech, the following stood out as particularly prominent in the categories addressed: invitations from or by professional colleagues, attendance at conferences and congresses, involvement in research contexts, classification of scientific achievements.
Perspectives on Zech by human- and cytogeneticists
Written sources show that Zech was in close contact with German-speaking researchers, including Thomas Cremer, Christa Fonatsch, Simone Heidemann, Anna Jauch, Peter Lichter, Brigitte Schlegelberger and Evelin Schröck.Footnote 29 This is also reflected in the eyewitness interviews of professional colleagues.
The retrospective perception paints a picture of a mentor to numerous young researchers who sought contact through regular letters, invitations and open discussion at conferences. In the recollection of her colleague and mentee Schlegelberger, Zech enjoyed the trust of many and was always surrounded by scholars at conferences. This had contributed to her being valued as an inspiring mentor.Footnote 30 The geneticist Fonatsch also ranked Lore Zech as one of the scientists who had had the greatest influence on her own career: “and of course the professors (Lore) Zech and Janet Rowley and Margareta Mikkelsen from Denmark… those are the most important ones…”.Footnote 31
The professional networking went beyond collegial exchange and professional support. It can be seen that Lore Zech's visibility is also evident in the perception of her participation at international conferences and congresses, important arenas for building and participating in networks.
In a biographical review, Schlegelberger pointed out that, in 1971, Zech's achievement was recognised by an invitation to the International Congress of Human Genetics in Paris to present the structure of human chromosomes that she had elucidated with the help of the Q-banding technique. The first version of the international cytogenetic nomenclature ISCN was also established at this conference.Footnote 32
These perspectives are reflected in the oral memories of Lore Zech. The impact of her participation in this congress is also recalled by Zech in the interview with mixed feelingsFootnote 33: “But I had talked about the Y chromosome at the conference in Reykjavik … I had to show Caspersson my manuscript and … he wrote on the big space on the side ‘This is ridiculous. You shouldn’t talk about it. People will laugh at you’. But anyhow, Albert de La Chapelle was there and he became very interested and the next opportunity he came to Stockholm. But when he came to see my chromosomes, Caspersson thought there might be something with them.”Footnote 34
The memories of witnesses paint a picture of good institutional integration of Lore Zech in Caspersson’s lab and intensive networking with external colleagues and scholars from other disciplines. The biographical documents refer to diverse professional collaborations with Lore Zech, which presumably strengthened the perception of her research.
Schlegelberger underlined the collegial exchange with Janet Rowley, which led to the description of the origin of the so-called “Philadelphia translocation”.Footnote 35
The interviewees also mentioned Zech's involvement in the research contexts at the Karolinska Institute. Karolinska geneticist Jan Lindsten, for example, described the joint scientific work and professional interests,Footnote 36 which were quite different from Caspersson's: “Now even that became a problem after some time, because Caspersson was so fascinated by machines and measurements and he made very good machines. He was very good at that. … He was interested in measuring in itself, which is legitimate I must say, but that was not my interest. So Lore and I had so many problems we wanted to do, but Caspersson more or less prevented us from pursuing all these ideas we had.”Footnote 37 Lindsten also addressed how Caspersson viewed their collaboration: “… but as Lore and I wanted to continue we had so many ideas of what to do, but he stopped it more or less. Of course I could continue with the banding techniques myself, but he stopped the collaboration between me and Lore because it became tangled. It grew too fast and too much and he hadn’t any control over it.”Footnote 38
In addition to good interdisciplinary networking, international, intradisciplinary networking was also essential for the visibility of the research results. Thus, in Zech's recollection, in addition to the presentation of current results at conferences, the personal report of directly involved people to colleagues in other institutes also contributed to the popularity of their results: “We saw the Y chromosome and then we had real luck, because one of our students at the Institute, who is now a professor in Lund [Sweden], he travelled to Germany and told everywhere, in our Institute they have very interesting methods to get bands on chromosomes and they can see the human Y chromosome, and so on and so on. But nobody used this.”Footnote 39
Caspersson and Zech have repeatedly been described as key figures in the discovery of banding in human chromosomes, a view shared by Caspersson himself and Zech's long-time Karolinska Institute colleague Gösta Gahrton. But how is Zech's scientific achievement classified in the respective historical retrospectives?
The director of the institute Caspersson himself introduced her in 1989 “my long-time collaboratress Dr. Lore Zech.”Footnote 40 Talking about Zech’s role, her lab colleague and later chairman of the Nobel Committee of physiology or medicine Gösta Gahrton phrased it as follows (translated from Swedish): “Who first discovered the bands is unclear, maybe Evy Simonsson, maybe Lore Zech, but probably it was Lore who saw that two plant chromosomes had band patterns that seemed identical while other chromosomes had other band patterns.”Footnote 41 Harper, who has conducted numerous biographical interviews, assigns Zech the following role: “Zech's pioneering discovery as employee of Caspersson's laboratory”.Footnote 42
Furthermore, in the interview her colleague Henry John Evans (Edinburgh) described an unequal distribution of work that he perceived. In his memory, Zech did not work under him, but together with him – and she had the main workload: “At that time Torbjorn Caspersson had just begun to start getting somewhere with fluorescence microscopy and using quinacrine, and Lore Zech worked with him. Lore, she did all the work actually, but for Tjorbjörn [Caspersson] everything had to be done with a spectrometer.”Footnote 43 In the biographical interview, Zech herself rates her discovery as “very outstanding”.Footnote 44
In the interview, Jan Murken assessed the discovery of “Zech and Caspersson”Footnote 45 as a groundbreaking methodological paradigm shift in human genetics. In his review of the history of the discipline, Murken refers to the “banding technique of Lore Zech”.Footnote 46
Looking back on Caspersson's role, she referred several times to the fact that Caspersson did not believe in the existence of the banding at first, but understood the weight of the discovery.Footnote 47 Elsewhere in the interview, Zech again stated that he had little confidence in the banding technique.Footnote 48
In the obituary by Schlegelberger it is described that Zech was a collaborator “under” Caspersson, who nevertheless worked “independently” on this development and thus achieved a scientific breakthrough.Footnote 49 Schlegelberger underlined Lore Zech's essential role and emphasised her pioneering role as the „mother of modern cytogenetics “.Footnote 50
In conclusion, the perceptions and interpretations of geneticists appear heterogeneous. Here we find both statements that downplay Zech's achievements and passages that praise her.