Skip to main contentU.S. National Library of MedicineU.S. National Library of Medicine

Profiles in Science
Pinterest badge Follow Profiles in Science on Pinterest!

The Oswald T. Avery Collection

Letter from L. C. Dunn to Joshua Lederberg pdf (316,882 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from L. C. Dunn to Joshua Lederberg
In this letter, Dunn shared with Lederberg his recollections of how Harriett Ephrussi-Taylor came to be interested in Avery's "transformation principle."
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
3 (316,882 Bytes)
1972-10-14 (October 14, 1972)
Dunn, L. C.
Lederberg, Joshua
Courtesy of Joshua Lederberg.
The National Library of Medicine's Profiles in Science program has made every effort to secure proper permissions for posting items on the web site. In this instance, however, it has either not been possible to identify or contact the current copyright owner. If you have information regarding the copyright owner, please contact us at
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Transformation, Genetic
DNA, Bacterial
History of Medicine
Exhibit Category:
After the Discovery: The Transforming Principle's Reception by the Scientific Community
Metadata Record Letter from Joshua Lederberg to L. C. Dunn (October 11, 1972) pdf (93,482 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Metadata Record Letter from L. C. Dunn to Joshua Lederberg (October 12, 1972) pdf (95,669 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Metadata Record Letter from Joshua Lederberg to L. C. Dunn (October 18, 1972) pdf (71,758 Bytes) transcript of pdf
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
Dear Josh,
Your letter of October 11 and the copy of Olby's very useful paper which you enclosed put the questions you ask about Harriett Taylor in a clearer light. I have doubts that I shall be able to answer them from documents since apparently all of my correspondence with students was kept with department matters (I was then executive officer) and cannot now be found. Nor does Harriett's name appear in the index of my correspondence which is now in the APS library. But, I shall hunt when next I go to Columbia Library for her dissertation and notes and have another go at an ex department secretary to see what became of department papers of that era.
On only a few questions will I trust my memory 1) Harriett came to work on developmental genetics in mice -- but during my absence one term she got interested in yeast and called me to a new room she had acquired on 10th floor
near Ryan's to show me material and observations she had already made. I believe I said I could be of little help with such a problem -- but felt that students should be free to choose sponsor and problem (better sponsor first) she didn't ask for other sponsorship, but just went ahead largely on her own. I'm sure she must have talked with Francis I have no memory of how she found an interest in yeast -- later it crossed my mind it might have come via Boris. What is certain is that long afterward she and Boris came together to enquire how she could get her degree awarded, something in which she herself had no great interest. I told them the University and science Faculty still maintained the requirement that after all other conditions had been met the final and necessary one was publication in an acceptable journal. As I recall Boris said "Then Harriett let us publish." But if it happened I don't know; thats a question to be settled from faculty records in the dean's office. (George Wald as I remember was for long in the same position -- if in limbo, then not suffering for it)
I recall no relationship with Selig Hecht. She probably spent one summer at Cold Spring Harbor as genetics students often did since we had one (or two) scholarships there. I believe that's where Bryson got interested in microbiology and perhaps it was the same in Harriett's case.
But how Avery's torch was transmitted I don't know. She certainly understood the problems consequent upon DNA as transformant -- her 1951 C.S.H Sympos paper shows that clearly -- but if she told you about Avery it must have been soon after the 1944 [?] paper was published. I don't believe we had discussed that paper in seminar until two or more years later. I tried just now to reach Harriett's friend of that time -- Reba Mirsky -- but she's apparently away. Mirsky may just possibly have been the liason [sic] in this case (Reba, I believe was somewhat later than Harriett as graduate student)
I'll send you news as soon as I get it -- but I think it must come from written records
good luck to your memoir work [ . . . ] L[?] Dunn
Metadata Last Modified Date:
Linked Data:
RDF/XML     JSON     JSON-LD     N3/Turtle     N-Triples