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The Oswald T. Avery Collection

Letter from Bruce Wallace to Joshua Lederberg pdf (68,112 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Bruce Wallace to Joshua Lederberg
Number of Image Pages:
1 (68,112 Bytes)
1974-03-08 (March 8, 1974)
Wallace, Bruce
Lederberg, Joshua
Reproduced with permission of Bruce Wallace.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Transformation, Genetic
Exhibit Category:
After the Discovery: The Transforming Principle's Reception by the Scientific Community
Box Number: 5
Folder Number: 2
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Commentary on Avery and His Work, 1944-2005
SubSeries: Inquiries on Avery
Folder: Lederberg Inquiries, 1962, 1972-1978
March 8, 1974
Dear Josh,
On Russian Easter, 1946, Miriam and I were invited to the Dobzhansky's along with several other couples (probably the Rhoadeses, the John Moores, and the Mirskys) to sample Natasha Dobzhansky's Easter goodies. When everyone else left the dining room table, Mirsky and I stayed behind to chat. It was then that he told me I would have to read two papers in order to catch up on the advances in genetics during W.W. II: Avery's work on transformation and Sonneborn's on the killer factor (plasmagenes, in the terminology of the time).
While it is true that Mirsky was critical in seminars of the notion that DNA was the transforming substance, he expressed no reservation nor criticism when he told me that I must read Avery's paper. I doubt that his criticisms impeded the sense of importance which he himself attached to this work.
Miriam supports your claim that Columbia was very much aware of the events going on at Rockefeller. There were three excellent women students at Columbia at that time: Harriet Taylor, Evelyn Maizel (Witkin), and Evelyn Hagen. Ev Hagen did not go on in science but, according to Miriam, she was extremely excited by Avery's findings, (I believe Ev Hagen was Ballentyne's graduate student at the time.)
During your talk I thought of still another (minor) example of an "unappreciated" observation -- it has slipped my mind. Should it occur to me later, I shall send it along.
Bruce Wallace
Professor of Genetics
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