Skip to main contentU.S. National Library of MedicineU.S. National Library of Medicine

Profiles in Science
Pinterest badge Follow Profiles in Science on Pinterest!

The Joshua Lederberg Papers

Letter from J. F. Portie to Joshua Lederberg Annotation pdf (123,200 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from J. F. Portie to Joshua Lederberg
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (123,200 Bytes)
1947-08-20 (August 20, 1947)
Portie, J. F.
Lederberg, Joshua
Courtesy of Joshua Lederberg.
The National Library of Medicine's Profiles in Science program has made every effort to secure proper permissions for posting items on the web site. In this instance, however, it has either not been possible to identify or contact the current copyright owner. If you have information regarding the copyright owner, please contact us at
Lederberg Grouping: Correspondence A
Box Number: 6
Folder Number: 47
Unique Identifier:
Accession Number:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1935-2002
SubSeries: 1925-1947
Folder: Portie, J. F.
20th August '47
Dear Dr. Lederberg,
I had read in the time the paper who bore Dr Tatum's signature as well as your own - Nature 19 Oct. '46 -- and I have just been reading your recent work on the same subject (J. bact. june '47).
I wish to point out first of all that in my opinion, your work is not only excellent but, what is more important still perhaps, that it is done in a direction that shall prove in the future most fruitful in many and quite different fields.
Secondly, I wish to call your attention on one point : you have been doing experimental work to see if you could induce some modifications in bacterial chemistry by using 'transforming substances' (taking into consideration O. T. Avery and M. McCarty's researches). For this purpose, you used centrifugation and filtration so that you could separate the products diffused by bacteria, from the microorganisms themselves. With these substances you undertook your experiments, that turned out to be negative.
Now, I might have told you beforehand that you had not a chance in a million of obtaining a positive result, owing to the manner you prepared your transforming Substance. I believe you were right in pointing out that some subtle change may have occurred in the medium by preventing the substance from being active.
Owing to the experiments I have undertaken on a quite different
and still closely connected line[?] with your own work, I think that the way you prepare your transforming substance is not the best for the purpose you had in mind ; i.e. I believe there might be an other and possibly a better way.
Now mind you : I am not in the least pretending that with the alternative preparation you should obtain a positive result. I am saying nothing of the sort, Having not gone through the same sequence of experiments as you have. But what I mean to say is that instead of having one chance in a million of obtaining a positive result, you might have something like, let's say, one chance in a hundred. This of course, does not make the odds so very good, but at any rate it does not make them as bad as otherwise. That's all.
If I insist on this position[?], it is because the experiment you undertook is quite important and therefore it seems to me it should be done is such a way so as to place oneself in the best conditions.
It is possible that I shall be going to the States either next autumn or during the winter. I suppose a talk would be the easiest and fasters way of exploring my idea on this special point.
Should such a scheme receive your agreement? If so, would you please let me know where I might eventually meet you?
Once again, I do appreciate your work: particularly, knowing how very young you still are.
With kind regards,
Believe me, sincerely yours
J. F. Perkins
Metadata Last Modified Date:
Linked Data:
RDF/XML     JSON     JSON-LD     N3/Turtle     N-Triples

Annotation by Joshua Lederberg:
KW: comments on early papers on E. coli recombination; cf DNA transformation;

jl 12/27/99