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The Joshua Lederberg Papers

[Typed transcript of diary entry by Lederberg upon hearing he had won the Nobel Prize] Annotation pdf (103,478 Bytes) ocr (4,301 Bytes)
[Typed transcript of diary entry by Lederberg upon hearing he had won the Nobel Prize]
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2 (103,478 Bytes)
1958-10-26 (October 26, 1958)
Lederberg, Joshua
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Lederberg Grouping: No Epoch
Metadata Record [Diary entry by Lederberg upon hearing he had won the Nobel Prize] (October 26, 1958) pdf (132,690 Bytes) trs (4,000 Bytes)
Box Number: 3
Folder Number: 7
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Series: Biography, 1904-1999
SubSeries: Awards and Honors, 1953-1998
SubSubSeries: The Nobel Prize
Folder: General, 1958 [1 of 3]
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Annotation by Joshua Lederberg:
Erratum:  Nobel ... suffer to SOLVE his conscience,
should be SALVE;

KW: Nobel prize, diary;
See BBAKZD for manuscript version

This is a transcript of JL diary note for October 26, 1958.
   announcement of Nobel Prize

I was not keeping a diary in those days but this particular event
led me to make notes on it just at the time.
  Joshua Lederberg. handwritten letter transcribed
Mon Oct  5 13:02:49 EDT 1998

Sunday,  26 Oct. (1958

     About 11:00 this a.m. I had gone to the lab to clean up the grant
applications * I've been working on (to the essential exclusion of my
lab work in recent weeks!).  I'd gotten up rather early, had some
coffee for breakfast and left, while Esther was having hers.  Last
night: an Australian party at home -- the Crawfords from Melbourne
(history); Phyllis Rowntree; Maggie Blackwood and the Leslie Osborns
(Psychiatry here).  I was to work at the lab until about 12:30, then
pick up Phyllis and Margaret for lunch and then see Phyllis off to
her plane: --> Columbus-->Denver--> SFO-->Sydney.

     At 11:30 + or - there was a call from a Mr. Lindquist of the
"Tijding..." newspaper in Stockholm -- the New York correspondent.
He explained his call to my astonishment that Beadle, Tatum, and I 
were to be the co-recipients of the Nobel prize in medicine this year.
I was rather incredulous: he insisted the AP was quoting the rumors
and he was quite sure it would be announced Thursday.  It's no
surprise, of course, that Beadle should be honored this way and it is
a perceptive courtesy for Tatum but I am still quite astonished
(as I was for the NAS last year) to be added on.  I just had the
impression that this kind of dignification in biology should go to the
venerables and veterans and it is a bit of a shock to be classed that
way.  Of course in physics quite young men, e.g. Willis Lamb have been
marked this way too.  But I'm worried enough at keeping up a lab
career that this kind of stigma has some dreadful connotations: I
guess I just don't believe in memorializing the live and kicking.
On the whole I'm a little afraid the fuss and bother more than outweigh 
the egotistic satisfactions, the cash and the prestige factors that
might help in getting my lab going.  Perhaps I'm exaggerating the
fuss; I was glad enough to be off the cover of Time, however!

    Anyhow I should have guessed sooner: several clues make some more
sense now! -- George Klein's enigmatic correspondence (saying earlier
he'd see me this year, then denying he was coming to the U.S.); Leo
Goldberg's request for a photograph; a telephone interview yesterday
or Friday by Dag Nystadter reporter; George's request for a 
bibliography last spring ( I suppose it did occur to me that George
did have something of the sort in his mind then, but hardly this year.)
Anyhow the trouble is it is by no means certain and there must be
some possibility it is a mistake; I am rather nervously awaiting the
AP bulletin to be picked up locally as I'm sure I'll have no peace
after that!

     I do feel as much as ever that the nonsense ought to be abolished
but I don't have the courage to meet it head on and I'm afraid it
would raise even more fuss and perhaps affront Ed and Beadle in a
rather nasty way.  The best I can do is to be as inconspicuous about
it as possible and make some reference to the obsolescence of personal
distinction in scientific life.  I could write a paper on the

     The functions of the N.P.: to attract public attention (and
arouse its understanding and support for social achievement in science
-- we (as scientists) have to suffer to salve his conscience. 
(Nobel).  Good and bad aspects; misunderstanding in role of hero
in science, no matter who must parasitize dozens of people who do not
directly share in recognition but may get secondary benefits.

or allude to this.  But probably the less said the better.

     What a mixed list it is!  The "distinction" works out to the cash
and to the public fuss that somehow has grown up around it.  1908 was
Ehrlich, Metchnikov; Muller was 1946 and to think of it did NP give
him such a fuss!??

? have to think about scheduling trip to STO in December -- by jet?
I suppose just have to concede that all our plans will be upset.

*NSF, General statement to Fred Stone for NIH; 
 NIH - Nossal; NIH - Training grant; NIH - transfer from U-W.

jl 2/23/99