Letter from Torbjorn Caspersson to Joshua Lederberg
In this letter to Lederberg, Caspersson wrote that he could not release any information on the Nobel Foundation's consideration
of Avery as all such materials were confidential. Caspersson related that due to the war, most scientists in Sweden did not
learn of Avery's work until sometime after 1945.
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1972-10-20 (October 20, 1972)
Courtesy of Joshua Lederberg.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
After the Discovery: The Transforming Principle's Reception by the Scientific Community
Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Torbjorn Caspersson (November 6, 1972)
I am sorry that I cannot be of any use with regard to your question about Avery. All proposals and all testimonies and studies
- and they are always extensive - regarding Nobel prizes are completely secret. This of natural reasons. Just now a move is
being made so that it will be possible for historians after 50 years to get access to documents, but only after a special
decision in each case by the corresponding Nobel committee.
Regarding my own contacts with Avery: Sweden was absolutely hermetically closed off by the Germans during the war and we did
not hear anything at all about science from the US until after the end of the war. This was in fact mutual. I got one single
opportunity to send a large box of reprints to the US with a special steamer, which was permitted to make one trip to the
US to bring a load of wheat to Sweden. This box was dumped into the Baltimore harbor by the proper authorities.
The general scene in Sweden after the war was naturally somewhat curious as a result of the isolation. I believe I am right
in saying that it took a remarkably long time here after the war until the importance of the nucleic acids in cell biology
began to dawn for the more influential people. This in spite of the considerable bulk of work done in Sweden on that field
during the preceding decades.