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The Joshua Lederberg Papers

Letter from Joshua Lederberg to John Macomber, Celanese Corporation Annotation pdf (96,830 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Joshua Lederberg to John Macomber, Celanese Corporation
Item is handwritten. Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (96,830 Bytes)
1980-11-02 (November 2, 1980)
Lederberg, Joshua
Macomber, John
Celanese Corporation
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Lederberg Grouping: Correspondence E
Box Number: 34
Folder Number: 175
Unique Identifier:
Accession Number:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1935-2002
SubSeries: 1978-1984
Folder: Macomber, John
John Macomber
[stamped, NOV 2 1980]
Celanese science advisory
Dear John --
I very much appreciate the friendliness and seriousness of your invitation. Having carefully reviewed my other commitments, I don't think I can take on the full vocation you ask -- and what my own inquisitiveness and sense of responsibility would impel. There are three major government agencies and four public service institutions for which I play a similar role -- not to mention this university -- of oversight over their general programs; and it is temperamentally difficult for me to "hit and run," and reduce my commitment to less than the opportunity and responsibility.
Let me be so bold, however, as to suggest a counteroffer, of more modest scope. That is to be a consultant to the committee, ad hoc, when matters closest to my central professional competence -- in microbiology and molecular biology -- are at issue.
enc p 229
Others might well believe that these specialized perspectives would have the greatest marginal value to you. I had in mind that two or three (part? --) days a year would exhaust my utility to you in this mode, and still be feasible for my own calendar. Above all I would not be tempted into too far-reaching a commitment.
I can imagine many reasons why you might not wish to take up this offer; and above all I would not want to preempt any more useful alternative. So please don't waste much time in "politesse" in responding to my suggestion along any motives other than what you see as Celanese' best interests.
Of course I would be happy to discuss this with you further after you have decided on a response.
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Annotation by Joshua Lederberg:
KW: re Macomber invitation to join the Science Advisory Board to the Celanese
Corporation of which he was CEO.  While I briefly demurred, I eventually accepted
and served with enthusiasm.  The Vice-Chair, Bob Mitchell, was the CTO
and most direct contact over the years.  The SAB was a step to converting
the image and reality of Celanese from a commodity chemical to a high-tech enterprise:
and that has an interesting history I hope will be chronicled sometime.
In due course, Macomber became an active member of the RU board; he engineered
the acquisition of Celanes by Hoechst, which in the long run put Celanese back on the

Node: Macomber, John; background was in McKinsey (mgt. consultant), but became chairman of
Celanese.  He is also celebrated as a board member of RJ Reynolds,
who did end up enhancing shareholder value during the infamous
leveraged buyout wars (Barbarians at the Gates.);

jl 1/23/00