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The Joshua Lederberg Papers

[Handwritten notes by Joshua Lederberg on discussion with John Moore] Annotation pdf (301,678 Bytes)
[Handwritten notes by Joshua Lederberg on discussion with John Moore]
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
5 (301,678 Bytes)
1976-12-24 (December 24, 1976)
Lederberg, Joshua
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
History of Medicine
History, 20th Century
Lederberg Grouping: Correspondence D
Box Number: 22
Folder Number: 98
Unique Identifier:
Accession Number:
Document Type:
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1935-2002
SubSeries: 1961-1978
Folder: Moore, John A.
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Annotation by Joshua Lederberg:
Keywords:  Ryan; Columbia; Columbia Zoology Dept; Dobzhansky;
    Anza Borrego; Dunn; Selig Hecht; Barth; Pollister; Neurospora;
     Griffith; Harriet(t) Taylor Ephrussi; Schrader; Levinthal;
    E.B. Wilson; transcript is appended;

John A Moore was a contemporary of Francis Ryan in the Zoology Department
at Columbia.  Now retired at U/California Riverside.  His specialty
was genetics of frog development; interspecific nucleo-cytoplasmic
relations.  His daughter Sally was married to Einar Gall, once on
the Rockefeller University faculty; then at Scripps, La Jolla;

He died 5/26/2002  aet. 86a;

jl 7/26/98

[[ corrected 21 Feb 1998]]
[[Transcribed 10 Feb 1998]]   See handwritten document on NLM web site.

[[ are interpolations.]]  [[Other parentheses are in original text.]]

[[ John Moore is Professor of Biology at U.Cal-Riverside.  He had been
Francis Ryan's closest friend at Columbia in the 1940s.]]

[[Dob'y is Dobzhansky.  His nickname was Dodik (Theodosius)
but I did not know him that intimately. The other "D" is Leslie Dunn.]]

Notes: discussion with John Moore       B209
Borrego Springs. Friday; 12/24/76

Having last seen John & Betty Moore in 1972 (<-> Anza Borrego), we
called them Monday evening to see if they would join us here for a
day.  And sure enough they did, driving down from Riverside to meet
us at 1000.  His car was a bit higher slung than our rented Cutlass;
we nevertheless left it about 1/2 way up Fish Creek and walked mostly
in the wash approaching Sandstone Canyon.

Johnny was very positive about historical inquiry and about doing this
with Harriet [[Zuckerman]]  -- whom he recalled as a graduate student!
[[in sociology at Columbia; later Mrs. Robert K. Merton, and
see P-266, P-267]].

Some points about the milieu : Francis entered a highly competitive,
contentious arena in the department.  He was a bright young
embryologist when he took his fellowship at Stanford [? how deferred
from selective service for the fellowship ({*over) some minor physical
disability may have sufficed}] and it was already settled that he
would return as an instructor to teach Zoo[[logy]] 1-2 (as it happened the
[[Navy]] V-12 pre-meds); but meantime he switched to Neurospora.  He had also
(mildly) antagonized Professor Barth by switching at the last minute 
to Pollister as his dissertation sponsor.  Real reason not recorded:
he told John it was because "Pollister had never had a grad student!"
(He and John were fellow grad students; the temperature-relations
experiment derived from some of John's observations; in retrospect
the developmental index may be spurious: gastrulation can be delayed
while other maturational processes continue.)

When Francis returned to Columbia, the great lights (Dunn; Dob'y;
even Barth) were not too thrilled about his turning biochemical--
perhaps not even about his invading "genetics."  [This, not the choice
of organism, was the problem.  Later when John, perhaps also Francis
recommended that I be sounded out about coming back to Columbia,
Dob'y still thought microbial genetics was a "flash in the pan."
{Consider implications of this attitude as a dampener for Avery}.
{Paradox that it was Dob`y who brought Griffith to the attention
of most geneticists via his comments in GATOOS. [["Genetics and the
Origin of Species"]]}].

Francis was viewed as an energetic, aggressive investigator -- perhaps
almost too much so in competing for space etc. (Biochemical work
needs more.) -- he was just in the wrong field.  Research was the
paradigm for promotion: but it needed to be sparked by an offer
elsewhere; and jobs were scarce.  When Johnny was offered a tenure
position at Hopkins he was able to negotiate a promotion for himself
but only on the further condition (unthinkable !) that Francis also
be elevated in a reasonable time.

Francis set up his own seminar series in the department.  (Doubtless
the one I also talked at in Fall '45) -- which had many,
since-illustrious visitors. "D & D never came," to Francis' great

Betty describes this as prima-donna complex.  When John became
chairman he spent almost his full time trying to ameliorate the
personal feuds and help the department members get along with one
another as decent human beings.*

As to graduate students, it took John a while to focus on 1945-8,
he thought later there were quite a few.  During the war, graduate
students were scarce; perhaps of lower quality.  They would tend
to be preempted by the senior faculty; and in genetics in particular,
D & D were better known, and had earlier access to them in the 
standard course sequence.  It would take some time for Francis 
reputation to be established, to be an independent attractant.
{all of which facilitated a niche for myself!}.
[[footnote here re Stanford *]].

I tried to press John on the question of how that atmosphere might
have shaped Francis' own research program; but did not get a clear
focus on the affective-cognitive intersection.  He just returned
to the theme it was "difficult."

[I should have turned the question on to John's own career, where he
might be better informed!  But he would probably have been too modest
and self-deprecating to come through.  But John is also plainly
much more diplomatically successful than Francis.]

He focussed on Selig Hecht as a victim: "brilliant, Jewish, aggressive
in research, fresh", resourceful at getting finds, autonomous but
isolated at Pupin Hall [[Physics Bldg]] -- felt very lonely.  John tried to mediate --
e.g. to persuade Schrader   , with some difficulty, to hold faculty
meeting once at Pupin: -- "brought tears to Hecht's eyes!"  
Entertained them royally {cookies, tea...} when they did come over!

P.S.  Francis continued to teach Zoo 101-102 because that was what he
was originally hired for; who else could have done it!; he was too
loyal to the department.

{The nabobs' attitudes may also have been conditioned by his being
home-grown.  Wouldn't they inevitably have difficulty effacing
their recollections of him as a green student from their overall
appreciation of him.  Is this a verifiable principle, that deviance
is least accepted in such circumstances.}

Note: a dozen cartons of Department records were desposited in
Columbiana by J. Moore in August 1962.  An addition about 6 on the
history of genetics were sent to the  Am. Phil. Soc.  L.C. Dunn's
papers were also there.  He does not know what was discarded. He has
nothing himself. 

"Ryan credited [Josh] with starting his work on reverse-mutation in

(I may have discussed research programs with him as backup to 
recombination and probably did look at meth- --> meth+ (cf Kohn
and Harris): possibly an eye to meth+ --> meth-.

* At Stanford only Pharmacology comes close to this level of interval
disruption.  An important subject for sociological inquiry: how
much academia energy is wasted in such conflicts.  What are the
preconditions for effective  cooperation!  Is personality; leadership
an adequate answer?

*over  [[re Ryan deferment from mil. service]]
combination of age, marital status, and engagement in "scientific
research" may have sufficed to put him in lower priority in
41-42.  After that he was a teacher in V-12 programs and involved
in OSRD research in gas gangrene.

[[extra short page]]

Cy Levinthal [[then chair of biology at Columbia]] knows that
many E B Wilson papers were in the "Wilson House" he used to
rent at Woods Hole.  These would be priceless for history of American
biology < 1940).