Thank you for your very interesting and useful material vis-a-vis Harriett. I think the documents that you sent do pin down
several of my questions quite clearly. I would guess that if Harriett gave a seminar in late 1942 that it was in the context
of the discussion in Doby's book rather than other direct contact with Avery, although it would be interesting to pursue
this. Quite possibly she was already very much sensitized to the problems of pneumococcus transformation even before that
My review in the American Scientist, reference 13, summarizes the possible diverse interpretations of the phenomenon. It is
interesting that in his letter to his brother Avery presents a much clearer picture of the genetic significance of transformation
than anything Doby wrote in his book. I have to agree that Dunn was her supervisor; she also acknowledges him and not Hecht
in her publication on yeast. I will have to write to Dunn to see if he can recall how in the world he came to agree to sponsor
a thesis on growth in yeast, which seems a rather improbable topic from almost any criterion that one would use today.
I would be very much interested to know what you meant by your plans for a further exploration of the Griffith-Avery story.
I have in mind to write a somewhat more detailed note than has appeared so far about the background of the investigation of
bacterial recombination, and I would be delighted to be able to refer to a reliable account of the Avery stuff, particularly
one that I agreed with. My letter to Nature in reply to Wyatt is probably going to seem a little bit too defensive about how
geneticists took that story, and of course I guess one has to specify which geneticists! What I really do bark at is the idea
that he seems to be promoting that Avery's work was simply not known about, which is, of course, preposterous. The idea
that bacteria were suitable objects for genetic investigation is another story, and I guess we all had our knocks about that.
I have no doubt at all that it was Dunn and Dobzhansky who pooh-poohed Harriett's interest in pneumococcus. It was common
knowledge that Francis Ryan had his knocks on rather similar questions; and what I know better now than then was how precarious
Francis must have thought his career might be in the face of these sorts of obtuseness about microorganisms and about biochemical
approaches to genetics that pervaded some of those seniors.
My own debt to her is quite clear. I would be interested in anything else that you can remember or dig up that might reflect
on the influence that Harriett and Francis had upon one another. Can you remember anything of what he might have thought about
Avery independently of Harriett, or would his insight into that have been pretty much derivative of hers?