Letter from Michael Heidelberger to F. M. Burnet, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
In this letter, Heidelberger congratulated the immunologist, virologist, and future (1960) Nobel Laureate Burnet on the publication
of his 1941 book, "The Production of Antibodies," in which Burnet developed a theory for the immunology of viral infections.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (141,601 Bytes)
1941-10-15 (October 15, 1941)
Burnet, F. M.
Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Allergy and Immunology
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
I want to thank you most heartily for sending me your beautiful monograph on the "Production of Antibodies". It arrived
today and I have already read it from cover to cover with absorbed interest. It seems to me that you have picked out the
soundest part of Bergmann and Niemann's work on which to base you theory--the analytical part and calculations in their
work will certainly have to be revised. I have never taken the Breinl-Haurowitz-Mudd-Pauling theory as literally as the various
authors' similes and diagrams might lead the reader to suspect they did, and for this reason I think your protease-modification
concept is in general harmony with the underlying ideas of the older theory, and as you have shown, is a more reasonable expression
of present knowledge. I am glad, too, that your theory and Dr. Sabin's seem essentially different aspects of the same
mechanism. If you have not already sent her a copy I shall show her mine when she comes East this winter. I am sure she will
be greatly pleased.
I was also much interested in the slow and lasting antibody response to the C16 phage and your other data on primary and secondary
responses. Do you think, however, that a logarithmic increase of "titer" necessarily means an equally great increase
in antibody concentration? The mere fact that 25 to 35 percent of cross-reacting anti-Ea or anti-S VIII can be removed with
no appreciable loss in "titer" suggests that actual antibody content may change quite differently. And again, apropos
of p. 68, is it not probable that pneumococci are as "good" antigens as Salmonella, for if 1 mg. of anti-S I, II,
or III nitrogen per ml. corresponds roughly to an agglutination titer of 1 to 1000, an anti-O or -H titer of 1:100000 cannot
mean 100 mg. of antibody per ml., since sera do not contain even that much protein. Rather, the combining proportions of antigen
and antibody in the two systems are so different that comparison of "titers" leads to impossible results. I bring
up these very minor points because they are close to experiments we have done.
I am very glad that some of the work of this laboratory has been of help in the evolution of your ideas on antibodies. As
a poor return for your monograph, I am sending under separate cover a few recent reprints, including several on the extension
of the qualitative method and theory to complement and its behavior. We have also have some experiments under way which will
eventually, I hope, thrown light on the peculiar antibody response of the ungulates.