In November 1973, my colleagues A. C. Y. Chang, H. W. Boyer, R. B. Helling, and I reported in PNAS that individual genes can be cloned and isolated by enzymatically cleaving DNA molecules into fragments, linking the fragments to an autonomously replicating plasmid, and introducing the resulting recombinant DNA molecules into bacteria. A few months later, Chang and I reported that genes from unrelated bacterial species can be combined and propagated using the same approach and that interspecies recombinant DNA molecules can produce a biologically functional protein in a foreign host. Soon afterward, Boyer's laboratory and mine published our collaborative discovery that even genes from animal cells can be cloned in bacteria. These three PNAS papers quickly led to the use of DNA cloning methods in multiple areas of the biological and chemical sciences. They also resulted in a highly public controversy about the potential hazards of laboratory manipulation of genetic material, a decision by Stanford University and the University of California to seek patents on the technology that Boyer and I had invented, and the application of DNA cloning methods for commercial purposes. In the 40 years that have passed since publication of our findings, use of DNA cloning has produced insights about the workings of genes and cells in health and disease and has altered the nature of the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries. Here, I provide a personal perspective of the events that led to, and followed, our report of DNA cloning.