Letter from Michael Heidelberger to the Loyalty Board, Bronx Veterans' Administration Hospital
In this letter, written at the height of the McCarthy Era, Heidelberger defended his former graduate student and present colleague
at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, Elvin Kabat, against charges of disloyalty that threatened
Kabat's affiliation with the Veterans Administration.
My former pupil, collaborator and friend, Professor Elvin A. Kabat, has shown me the list of charges drawn up against him.
I am shocked that some of them are even considered seriously enough to enumerate. I refer particularly to subscription to
the American-Soviet Medical Journal, membership in the American Association of Scientific Workers, and participation in the
American-Soviet Scientific Society. If you ban curiosity as to Russian scientific accomplishment and membership in one of
the most active and progressive scientific societies in the United States, the American Association of Scientific Workers,
you will not only separate a high proportion of your ablest scientists from your service, but will automatically prejudice
another high proportion against joining or staying in the Government services. If you look with suspicion on any organization
to which a communist has ever belonged it would be necessary to ban members or former members of Congress from service under
the Veterans' Administration, not could you employ a man such as Senator Austin because he has talked to Vishinsky.
I have known Dr. Kabat ever since he came to me as a student in 1933. He holds many liberal and advanced ideas, in accordance
with the finest American traditions. He is brilliant, outspoken, and has often been tactless, especially when he was younger,
and it quite possible that for these reasons some of his statements may have been misunderstood, possibly deliberately.
Dr. Kabat served me with jointly as responsible investigator in a highly secret and dangerous project during the war, and
I can testify without reservation as to his fidelity in the guarding of records, his zeal and fervor in the service of his
country, and his complete willingness even to risk his life on dangerous missions. I submit that these more recent evidences
of maturity and patriotism should outweigh any suppositions based on the possible extravagant talk of an immature young man
twelve years ago. I should like to point out, too, that Dr. Kabat has a wife and two children, potent factors in assisting
a swing to the right.
I consider these accusations as manifestly absurd and as of cruel potential damage to the career of one of our most promising
and brilliant young scientists. I congratulate the Veterans Administration on still having available to it the talents of
this investigator, and trust that this fruitful connection may continue.