Letter from A. M. Pappenheimer, Jr. to Alden H. Emery, American Chemical Society
In this letter Heidelberger once more expressed his objection to the decision of the Admissions Committee of the American
Chemical Society in 1953, at the height of the McCarthyism, to deny membership in the society to the French chemist and Nobel
Laureate, Irene Joliot-Curie, on the grounds that she was a communist. Heidelberger objected that this decision was itself
political, that it undermined the freedom of scientific inquiry in the United States, and that a candidate's scientific
qualifications alone should determine eligibility for membership.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (102,663 Bytes)
1954-03-11 (March 11, 1954)
Pappenheimer, A. M. Jr
Emery, Alden H.
American Chemical Society
Reproduced with permission of John R. Pappenheimer.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Alden H. Emery, American Chemical Society (January 11, 1954)
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Alden H. Emery, American Chemical Society (February 17, 1954)
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Alden H. Emery, American Chemical Society (March 30, 1954)
On February 17, I wrote requesting information on the reasons for refusing Mme. Joliot-Curie membership in our society. I
have not received a reply.
Since writing to you, I have had an opportunity to read the correspondence in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist including
your own remarks. On the basis of what I have read in the N. Y. Times and in the Bulletin it would appear that Mme. Joliot-Curie
has been refused membership because her husband belongs to the Communist party and because it is suspected that she also is
a communist sympathizer.
I think that a great many (I hope the vast majority) of scientists feel as I do--namely, that membership in our learned societies
should rest primarily on scientific merit and interest and that a given members personal political and religious beliefs do
not concern us. I have no doubt that Mme. Joliot-Curie's primary purpose in applying for membership was not to "foster
public welfare" in the United States, to further "the development of United States industry" or "to add to
the material prosperity and happiness of the American people". I presume that her primary purpose was to receive the
Journal and the Abstracts at the reduced price granted to members. I imagine almost all foreign members (regardless of political
opinions) also joined for this reason and so indeed did most Americans, including myself.
One of the things that most of us despise in Communist and Fascist regimes has been their attempt to impose party doctrines
on scientists and members of the learned professions. In refusing Mme. Joliot-Curie membership, it seems to me the American
Chemical Society has taken a big step in this same direction. I would like to request that the admissions committee and the
Directors seriously reconsider Mme. Joliot-Curie's application and at least try to repair some of the damage already done
to our society's reputation both here and abroad.