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The Joshua Lederberg Papers

Letter from Francis J. Ryan to Joshua Lederberg pdf (501,097 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Francis J. Ryan to Joshua Lederberg
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
6 (501,097 Bytes)
1947-12-16 (December 16, 1947)
Ryan, Francis J.
Lederberg, Joshua
Reproduced with permission of Elizabeth J. Ryan.
Lederberg Grouping: Correspondence B
Box Number: 8
Folder Number: 27
Unique Identifier:
Accession Number:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1935-2002
SubSeries: 1947-1953
Folder: Ryan, Francis J.
Dear Josh,
This long delayed letter is designed to answer two of yours (Oct. 7 and Nov. 30) and to give you a little news about your alma mater.
Thanks for the copy of the 679-680 summary. The variation in total population from tube to tube is, as you point out, immense. For that reason it is a poor experiment. The 10:02 and [mathematical equation, see original] cultures were probably contaminated if I can judge from Lillians [sic] note in the record book that in one case there were 92 surface colonies present. Excluding these, there is still too much variation compared with what we get with histidineless where the total number is constant not only from tube to tube but from month to month: The reason for this variation, which will be easy to avoid, lies in the condition of the expt. 23 hr. complete medium cultures were centrifuged and resuspended twice in saline and allowed to stand 8 hrs before plating.
The culture was too old, washing introduced some variation and 8 hrs in saline we know is quite lethal. Next time we'll do better.
But when is next time. I won't try to outline for you our histidineless data. They become more and more interesting and more and more complex. The complexity, as you will point out, is a function of our ignorance, but I think we are on the verge of having a pretty good approximation of an explanation. I hope in about a month to let you look at a manuscript or two. (Probably you will see them in 1950 -- realistic statement.) However in my optimism I hope to get to Y53 this spring. I won't be at Chicago (Perkins will) so why not come all the way east for a visit and we can talk over this business. Right now the only way I could explain histidineless is to write a manuscript or talk with a blackboard and a couple of hours time.
Dave is busy with his corn smuts, now has a lot of biochemicals. He knows about the Sphacelotheca stuff and is about ready to go to town on recombination in vivo and in vitro. He hopes to be finished this
summer. If you need, or know someone who needs, a first rate man, keep Dave in mind.
Kim is now getting in stride. I think the most interesting thing he's studying is an adaptation of the diver technique to determine the weights of the same mycelial dot at different stages of growth. As you know, he has plenty of imagination and ingenuity. I'm trying to hammer home just a little discipline. I seem always to have gifted problem children, don't I? I like them.
Sheng is very busy with [crossed out, crosses] (alas, no) courses. He has, however, spent some time on the asparagine adaptation in k12. He cannot confirm what I think you told me ie. [sic] that C4 acids will substitute for asparagine and aspartic acid. Do you plan to follow through on this? I think Sheng is interested in doing so. There is a peculiar inheritance of the adaptation.
Kim, by the way, is another father as of Sunday night -- a girl named
June. All are well. Carl Clark, as an additional by the way, gets married this Saturday.
Mrs. Leuchtenberger and Peg Lieb are learning Neurospora techniques in Zool 219. As a small problem they have studied the segregation of nuclei into branches in a heterocaryon. Segregation does occur. Tom Nelson just handed in a report on the respiratory metabolism of Neurospora consisting of work he did in 219 last year. He's toying with the idea of following through on that. There's a bright and industrious boy.
So you see the 10th floor is humming. We've nothing spectacular like Evelyn's salt mutations or Gus Doermann's dope on arithmetic multiplication of phage but we're just beginning. Lil is getting mighty pleased with our physical setup which is improving. In a year or two we'll hit a jackpot. Just this month have I really gotten back in the lab. The administrative crap, departmental but mostly College, has risen to an all-time high. I'm getting very fed up for its [sic] only by brute strength
and not intelligence that I get any time for my own research. And as you know I get a very large kick out of a hand in a clean experiment. I don't like to talk, especially about "high" policy like whether the pre-engineers dockets should follow them into Engineering school or should remain in the Dean's office. So much for that or I'll bore you to death.
Returning to your letters Ruben has contacted me but as yet we have not gotten together. Glad to hear that your facilities are developing favorably and that you're getting things done. You have, by the way, finally converted Beadle to your cause. He still zooms thru the city every once in a while. Did you know that Mitchell found that Dave's nicotinic precursor is OH anthranilic acid? Delbruck is apparently organizing the mathematicians and theoretical physicists around Biology and is considered a real big asset. I'm sure he is.
What's the story on the microfilm of the Stanford theses? Is the next
move yours or mine? Also are there any really promising young biochemists coming thru or at Wisconsin?
This letter has been interrupted by or is interrupting the determination of growth curves of shaken cultures of h minus and h plus and that's too damn bad. So --
Regards to Esther, Snell and any one else would deserve and appreciate them
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