Edwin Cooper (Finding Aid)

Edwin Cooper

1936 -

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Time of Year: Spring

Favorite Vacation Spot: "My whole life is a big vacation."

Interview Length: 147 minutes

Interview Date(s): April 27, 2011

Interview Location(s): Los Angeles, California


Edwin Cooper talks about his mother's side of the family. His mother, Ruthester Porche Cooper was born in Yoakum, Texas. The Porche family originated in Louisiana from Pierre Porche [Ruthester's grandfather], a French man who was born around 1830. His wife, Juliana Porche was of mixed race and was born about the same time. They gave birth to Joseph Porche who married Hannah Hughes Porche, Cooper's maternal grandparents. Cooper then talks about his paternal lineage, all of whom came from Oakland, Texas including Cooper's great-grandfather, Edmund Cooper, grandfather, Alan Gates Cooper, and father, Edwin Ellis Cooper. Edwin Ellis was born in 1910. Cooper's paternal great-grandfather had served in the Civil War, but later became a minister of the M.E. Methodist Church. Cooper's parents married in 1935 and stayed in Oakland, Texas, where his father attempted to start a farm.

Edwin Cooper discusses the relationship between his father, Edwin Ellis Cooper, and grandparents, Alan Gates Cooper and Eula Jones Cooper. Cooper's grandmother, Eula, was a detail-oriented and demanding woman, and his father, Edwin Ellis, was a shy but hard-working man. Edwin Ellis Cooper was essentially tasked with both raising his own family and ensuring the well-being of his parents [Cooper's grandparents] who moved to Houston to make a better living. He worked at Sinclair Oil and did not attend college, eventually marrying Cooper's mother, Ruthester, in 1935. The couple moved to Oakland, Texas, where Cooper was born about a year later followed by six more children. Cooper was a favored child in Oakland, in part because of his difficult birth since he was an unusually large baby. Cooper closes this section of the interview by talking about his interest in studying insects and crawfish as a youth.

Edwin Cooper discusses his youth in Houston, Texas. His family moved to the city in 1938, a couple years after he was born. They moved to several locations in the city during his childhood; each move was to a better neighborhood with access to better schools. Cooper attended Luckie Elementary School before moving to The Heights neighborhood in northern Houston. As a youth, Cooper enjoyed teaching lessons to the kids of his neighborhood. He cannot recall any problems with race relations in Houston while he was growing up, although the city had segregated facilities. His family eventually moved to what was formerly the Jewish neighborhood of Houston, near Texas Southern University. Cooper attended Yates High School and graduated at the age of sixteen. During high school, Cooper won a city-wide art contest for his ceramic vase.

Edwin Cooper traces his educational path from Yates High School to his graduate studies at Brown University. Cooper enjoyed art in high school, and although he wanted to become an artist, his parents disallowed it. He studied at Texas Southern University, where his mentors included S. Milton Nabrit, Robert Terry, and Alberta Seaton. Cooper developed an interest in developmental biology and decided to pursue his M.S. degree at Atlanta University. He studied the development of what is essentially the ears of chickens under the guidance of Mary Reddick. Some of his other professors included, Barnett Smith, John Burney and Frederick Mapp. Cooper graduated with his M.S. degree in 1959. During his time at Atlanta University, Cooper had the opportunity to take a course in invertebrate biology at Woods Hole. He then went on to conduct research at Brown University.

Edwin Cooper received his Ph.D. degree in 1963 from Brown University. His research focused on using immunosuppressive drugs to aid scale transplants in fish. The research introduced him to the field of immunology, which he combined with zoology to create the field of comparative immunology. Cooper recalls many people in academia dismissing his ideas initially, but he continued his research nonetheless. In 1962, Cooper started his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles. He became an assistant professor at the UCLA Medical School, teaching basic science courses in immunology. In 1966, Cooper spent a year in Mexico as part of an exchange program funded by the Agency for International Development. Some of Cooper's first research projects included the study of immune responses in earthworms and frogs. Cooper published his first paper in 1969 in Transplantation, and started the International Journal of Development and Comparative Immunology in 1977.

36 Stories (See Ordered Story Set)