This letter is written on my knee at 4 a.m. when I like to commune by mail.
Nov 9. 65
Dear Dr Lederberg,
Thank you for your recent letter. I was delighted to learn that Jim is working for you. When last I heard from him he was
engaged by "Equipment Digital," and I was concerned that he had abandoned the study of medicine to concentrate on
the problems of data processing and it is heartening to know that he is in an academic family and I hope may in due course
earn a doctorate in philosophy.
Some day when you or your team may want to hear the details of Avery and Griffith I shall fly out. The story is too long for
me to put in a letter. Incidentally, would you care to have a picture of Griffith and Bobby? I had the only one in existence
after Fred Griffith was bombed to death, and I sent it to the British at their request. I can send you a rather faded copy.
You may be interested to know that while
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Fred Griffith was alive, I gave Avery a copy of this snapshot. The Fess kept it on his desk at the Rockefeller and later at
his home in Nashville throughout all of the "transforming" and "post-transforming" years.
You may not know that whereas Avery was my spiritual "Advisor", Fred Griffith and I actually collaborated in 1931.
Griffith did not know the implications of his work because his job demanded pragmatism. Avery, on the other hand, envisioned
the whole business of the "transforming factor" and the application to the future of genetics. In fact, he enlightened
me on a Sunday morning's walk through the countryside (in ? March 1942) a few hours before we took the snapshot that you
have. Fess had described his findings the day before to the Trustees of the Rockefeller Institute. Fess was the only man with
pure humility that I was proud to know. In my spells of excitement he would say "Al, it may be safer to apply the brakes
than blow the horn"! He was 100 percent free from seeking credit for accomplishments.
Incidentally, you are probably well acquainted with the fantastic tale of the marriage of Beadle and Tatum as told me by the
priest! All the best Al Coburn