Courtesy of Kevin Holcomb

For many scientists, Howard Hughes is synonymous with a gold mine for biomedical research, even if the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is not mentioned in The Aviator, a recent film about Hughes' early career. But it hasn't always been clear skies for the storied institute.

Although HHMI's Avice Meehan says that Hughes decided to create the institute after surviving a dramatic plane crash in the 1940s – an event featured in the film – Hughes biographer Richard Hack has a different story. When interviewed for the TV show, 60 Minutes, Hack said the HHMI was created after the secretary of the US Air Force threatened in 1953 to cancel all contracts with the reclusive Hughes' aircraft company, if he didn't give control of the company to a government-appointed person. Ninety days later, Hughes created HHMI and gave it all 75,000 shares of the...

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