I am trying to collect a more accurate historical record, in part to clear up some of the confusion that Wyatt has introduced
into an interesting part of the history of molecular and cell biology. I have gone into this in part in my enclosed note to
Nature, but I think it may be important to enlarge on it and to try to collect more documentation from the original actors.
You have probably seen the rather stupid way in which he has referred to your controversy about the purity of transforming
DNA. (May I refresh your memory that I was quite sympathetic to those criticisms in principle and certainly our goading did
nothing to impede the actual progress of work in that field).
I first learned about Avery's work from Harriett Taylor in January 1945, and indeed this impelled me to propose some experiments
to Francis Ryan, the further outcome of which I think you know very well. I am interested now in trying to elucidate how Harriett
and others at Columbia first became acquainted with Avery's work, presumably just prior to or at about the time of his
publication in early 1944. Dobzhansky had of course referred to the overall problem of pneumococcus transformation in his
book "Genetics and the Origin of Species" bringing the story up to a point before the active material had been identified
as DNA. I have written to Doby to try to clarify the level and nature of his own personal contacts with Avery through that
interval. Since, as I recall, you were in very close contact with the Department of Zoology in the early 1940's it seems
plausible that you may have yourself been an important vehicle for informing the geneticists there about this work and its
significance, and I wonder if you can corroborate that. I would be particularly interested in any precise information that
you may have about how Francis Ryan and Harriett Taylor became acquainted with this work and how Harriett first made direct
contact with Avery, with the eventual result, of course, of her working with him.