Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Paul Berg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Gabrielle Crick.
Protein Synthesis, Tumor Viruses, and Recombinant DNA, 1959-1975
Letter from Paul Berg to Francis Crick (October 18, 1973)
Letter from Francis Crick to Paul Berg (October 19, 1973)
Letter from Francis Crick to Paul Berg (October 25, 1973)
Letter from Paul Berg to Francis Crick (November 5, 1973)
Letter from Paul Berg to Francis Crick (November 14, 1973)
Letter from Paul Berg to Francis Crick (January 3, 1974)
8th November, 1973
I understand exactly how you feel, which is why we sent you a telegram and why
my last letter opened with an apology. I would very much rather you write me a blunt letter than nurse feelings of anger.
This is a further apology but also a partial explanation. At no time did either Roger or I think for one moment that you
yourself were withholding information. However, I would be less than candid if I did not confess that I did wonder whether
Jack Griffith was reluctant to let us see his pictures. This is because Roger had told me that it was only with some persistence
that he got Griffith to show the picture to him when he was in Stanford. This, together with the delays (which we now realise
were purely accidental) caused us some concern. Entirely thanks to you we had come to realise that SV 40 "chromatin"
could provide us with vital information and we were naturally anxious to see the pictures as soon as possible. We were also
reluctant to start repeating work which had been freely told to us before publication and which was still unpublished. The
irony of the situation is that, having seen the pictures, we now realise that we ought to repeat and extend your observations
if we are to get all the information we need from the system. For example, we lack a good figure for the diameter of the
chromatin fibre. This is why I stressed in my last letter that I hope Jack Griffith will publish his work in the near future.
Incidentally, it is not certain that John Finch (who is doing the e/m work) will use SV 40. He may well try another virus
from which we could get enough material for parallel X-ray work.
Please don't pass on anything about my fears to Jack Griffith, as we don't want to
upset him as well! As to secrecy, I am against it, as you are. Incidentally, I have been assuming that the Roger-Arthur channel
has told you what we are up to. If this is less than clear I would be happy to write you a long letter putting you fully
in the picture. At this moment Markus Noll, who is collaborating with Roger, has repeated and, in outline, confirmed the
Hewish-Burgoyne result which is the key to the whole problem. However the first attempt to do it on chromatin without FI
has been unsuccessful for technical reasons so they will have to try again. Incidentally, your contraction ratio of about
10 fits very nicely into the model, provided we assume that this is the dry value, and that the wet value is nearer 7. The
little that is known from the X-ray data makes this assumption reasonable. Of course the most speculative feature is the
assumption that the basic unit has just two each of the four histones. So far we have nothing which gives direct support
Do please write if there is anything else that needs clearing up, or if there is
anything you want to know, either about our work, our plans for future work or our
general ideas. Incidentally, Roger is doing a marvellous job. What looked like a
very messy problem 6 months ago is now almost at the break-through point.