Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Mary Washington Frazer, Tennessee State Library and Archives
In this letter to Frazer, Lederberg not only inquired as to the extent of Avery's collection at the Tennessee State Library
and Archives, but if it included any correspondence from Harriett Ephrussi-Taylor or Fred Griffith.
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1972-10-13 (October 13, 1972)
[Frazer, Mary Washington]
Tennessee State Library and Archives
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
After the Discovery: The Transforming Principle's Reception by the Scientific Community
Letter from Mary Washington Frazer, Tennessee State Library and Archives to Joshua Lederberg (October 18, 1972)
Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Mary Washington Frazer, Tennessee State Library and Archives (November 7, 1972)
I have an informative communication from Dr. Al Coburn in connection with the enclosed historical note, upon which I plan
to enlarge. It includes a note from Mrs. Roy C. Avery stating that her late husband's papers, and "all of Fess's
papers " have been deposited with you "In this way they will be kept safely and can be referred to by any interested
I was most pleased to hear this, as I have been having a rather frustrating time recreating a historical record for an important
turning point in biology, 1943-1946, in which "Fess" (Professor O.T. Avery) was a central figure. This correspondence
may be particularly important, because of Avery's renowned reticence about publishing anything more than the bare bones
data of his experiments in print.
May I ask you for information about the character of the collection of O.T. Avery's papers to which Mrs. Roy Avery has
referred? Might I then reasonably respond with a request to have some portion of it microfilmed (at my expense) for more
careful perusal? His letters may contain many interesting details for the evolution of modern biology that would be unrevealing
except to a specialist in the field.
The period 1943-1946 would be of the most central concern, and within that time any correspondence he may have had with the
late Harriett Taylor (later Ephrussi) who was one of the first younger biologists to recognize the significance of his work.
During an earlier period, back to 1928 or shortly before, any communications with Fred Griffith of London (who died in the
blitz in 1944) would also be most revealing.
I doubt that there can be any material here that would be embarrassing to any living persons, and much that may be of vital
historical interest; but I would be glad to see it under any cautions concerning publication that you, as custodians, may
feel to be appropriate.