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The Joshua Lederberg Papers

Letter from Clifford Grobstein to Joshua Lederberg pdf (184,025 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Clifford Grobstein to Joshua Lederberg
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
3 (184,025 Bytes)
1956-01-22 (January 22, 1956)
Grobstein, Clifford
National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
Lederberg, Joshua
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Lederberg Grouping: No Epoch
Box Number: 73
Folder Number: 2
Unique Identifier:
Accession Number:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Research
SubSeries: Genetics
SubSubSeries: Stanford University
SubSubSubSeries: Department of Genetics
SubSubSubSubSeries: Correspondence and Notes
SubSubSubSubSubSeries: Correspondence
Folder: 1956-1957
Jan. 22, 1956
Dear Josh --
I much appreciate your long and informative letter of January 18. What you say of Stanford fits well with other information and impressions I have been gathering in recent weeks. The only new thing I can contribute to your own equation is an up-to-date statement of where I stand or, better perhaps, how I incline for I have one foot raised and hopefully pointed west. The fact is that I will go to Palo Alto only to ensure that there are no reasons I do not now see which make the move unwise.
The major considerations for me have been: 1) A desire to take my family back west, and particularly to the Bay Region, where living is to us more pleasant. Were I, like you, in a cross-fire between Palo Alto and Berkeley I might have troubles. But all of my alternatives have been east of the Rockies and in these underprivileged regions Washington is as good as any and better than most. 2) The assurance that I can transfer my research program with relatively minor damage, and yet acquire the advantages of a university community of modest but assured status. I do not think that research opportunities, in the laboratory sense, will be better anywhere than here. I expect to find relative limitation at Stanford, in that the university community will hardly supply the diversity and strength technically of the NIH. To some extent Berkeley will compensate, but I expect compensation in freer access to students and fellows than we have here. 3) The feeling that in not too many years I will want to
spend somewhat less time in the laboratory and somewhat more time in the library and, possibly, in the broader community -- indulging interests which are not in the bread and butter sense appropriate here. 4) My evaluation of Stanford as an institution which both geographically and intellectually is marginal -- in the sense of being near but not at the center. I prefer what you call the lower pressure system, at least for steady fare. It is nice to be able to expose one's self to the high wind on occasion, but I don't like the shapes of those who always live in it.
These are very general considerations, when I get specific the signs tend to point the other way. Stanford has a long history of financial problems, with little indication that they have been solved. The Biology Division is hardly impressive at the moment and I am a little concerned about the quality of the graduate students it can attract. Physical facilities are limited and there is little indication of aggressive moves to seize opportunities now available to improve them. Having always been in public institutions I tend to prefer them, though it may well be that in the future the distinction between public and private may become steadily less sharp.
When I add all this up I find sufficient attractiveness to warrant the disruption of moving. I recognize, however, several factors which are strongly personal and, looking at the situation through your eyes as outlined in your letter, can see that you may decide differently. Needless to say, if I do go and you do not I will be disappointed, particularly if you remain at Wisconsin. But I see few good professional reasons why you should choose Palo Alto over Berkeley, I am not at all sure that I would myself. I suspect they will solve the problem of Esther's status, certainly there are many ways in which it can be done.
I noted with interest your reference to Philadelphia, which I suspect may have involved the same problem I faced with little difficulty. Did you not want to be a chairman either?
I don't think I can make it out to mid-America before March, I am trying to make six weeks of uninterrupted work between an NIH study section meeting in Florida last week-end and the California trip. I would much like to hash it all out in greater detail than via mail but it seems it is not to be. Unless possibly you can still stop here on your way to Europe. In any event, I hope you will let me know what decision you reach.
On another matter, I am much concerned about continued repercussions of the Sussman-Shaffer affair which clearly are doing Manny no good. I cannot go into details but hope you can read between the lines when I say that one focus of the difficulty lies at Wisconsin and that some quiet conversation there might break up what, knowingly or unknowingly, threatens to develop into a gentile lynching party.
Very best regards to you and Esther.
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