Letter from Enrique E. Ecker, Western Reserve University to Michael Heidelberger
In this letter, Heidelberger surveyed the young field of complement research, a field Heidelberger helped found during the
late 1930s and early 1940s by proving that complement was made up of a group of specific chemical substances that could be
isolated in the laboratory. Subsequent research has shown that complement is a complex system of over twenty serum proteins
that after activation play an essential enzymatic role in host defense mechanisms against invading microorganisms, namely
in the promotion of inflammation, phagocytosis (the engulfing of invading organisms by immune cells), and lysis (the breaking
up of such organisms).
Number of Image Pages:
1 (76,319 Bytes)
1941-04-05 (April 5, 1941)
Ecker, Enrique E.
Western Reserve University. Institute of Pathology
Reproduced with permission of Case Western Reserve University.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Complement System Proteins
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Enrique E. Ecker, Western Reserve University (April 3, 1941)
First of all let me thank you for all the kindness you showed us during our stay in New York. It was indeed an experience
to be with a group at a meeting where the bell did not ring while a paper was being read. We thoroughly enjoyed those live
Pillemer and I were the first to appear at your home, and in conversation with Mrs. Heidelberger the coffee pot became the
main topic of interest. She will tell you that Java coffee is a rare delicacy and the reason why it is. I found a few ounces
of the real thing at home and I have sent it to her. You will have to burn it for her until it is brown, this with frequent
stirring. It will be the last batch I will ever get since my friend who was Governor of the island of Timor got himself in
Concerning the new nomenclature, we are in complete agreement with you and suggest that you make the changes in your manuscripts.
We have written a note which will be offered to Science for publication; in this note we present the electrophoretic diagrams
of mid-piece, end-piece as prepared by the older methods and of ammonia-treated and zymin-treated serums. We also state in
the note that the older terminology is unsatisfactory and mis-leading, and propose the symbols for the components which we
now agree on. It is stated further in the note that the nomenclature was arrived at in complete collaboration and agreement
With best regards to Mrs. Heidelberger and to you,