Memorandum from Joshua Lederberg [on conversing with Rollin Hotchkiss and Norman Zinder about Avery, Dobzhansky, and Ephrussi-Taylor]
These are Lederberg's notes from a conversation with Hotchkiss and Zinder in which they discussed the initial interest
of Harriett Ephrussi-Taylor in Avery's work and the possibility of Avery corresponding with Theodosius Dobzhansky. Includes
one page of handwritten notes.
Item is a photocopy.
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2 (132,231 Bytes)
1973-02-09 (February 9, 1973)
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
History of Medicine
After the Discovery: The Transforming Principle's Reception by the Scientific Community
Subject: Avery; Conversation with Rollin Hotchkiss and Norton Zinder, February 6, 1973 at Rockefeller University
Rollin recalls that Harriett visited Rockefeller probably in July 1945 in order to interview Avery. He knows she also saw
Dubos at that time and has the impression that Dubos organized the entire arrangement. He had the idea that Avery should be
looking for geneticists and he knew Harriett conceivably via Bernie Davis. Rollin himself joined the group the following year.
The date is not tied down absolutely. I have asked Rollin if he could find some record of it. Since Harriett had pointed out
Avery's paper to me in January 1945 this would be consistent with the statement that she made this approach "after
reading his publication". However we have other evidence that the work in Avery's lab was discussed in some detail
at Columbia during the years preceeding. For example, Dave Perkins recalls that Harriett gave a seminar on the Griffith work
before he left for the army which would have been fall 1942. In addition, Dunn mentions that Dawson had given a seminar presumably
also during that general period.
While there were undoubtedly other channels of communication between Rockefeller and Columbia -- especially Mirsky and Pollister,
Rollin finds it hard to believe that Dobzhansky could have had a very meaningful direct conversation with Avery and doubts
that this would ever have taken place. Avery's manner was such that it would be very difficult to get through except for
someone who knew him intimately for a very long time.
Dobzhansky quotes the monograph on the biology of pneumococcus, 1938, by White et al. for the background information on the
pneumococcus transformation in his 1941 edition. He refers to Griffith, Dawson, Heidelberger, Avery, and many other . . .
This suggests that Dawson or Heidelberger might have been the immediate inspirations to Dobzhansky in pointing out this work.
Harriet came to see Dubos, interv. Avery.
probably met Avery then ?his initiative "Dubos arranged it." (and pursued her)
came to lab July 45 Rollin H. Joined group July 46.