Letter from Michael Heidelberger to his mother, Fannie Camp Heidelberger
In this letter to his aging mother, Fannie Camp Heidelberger, Michael Heidelberger described his six-week visit to India in
early 1952 as a delegate (in place of the ill Linus Pauling) to the Indian Science Congress in Calcutta. While in India Heidelberger
had dinner with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, during which the two did not discuss science but U.S. foreign policy. As
he reported in his letter, he was also able to realize his "lifelong dream of immunizing an elephant." He injected
human gamma globulin into the ear vein of a work elephant, and found that the animal was indeed a good producer of antiserum
to the injected globulin.
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1952-01-27 (January 27, 1952)
Heidelberger, Fannie Camp
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Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
My work here is really done now, and I have been spending the day relaxing. To-morrow I hope to see a model town built for
the refugees from Pakistan, and then be off next day for Paris via Beirut on Pan American Airways.
The visit to Mysore, was really the culmination, in a way of the whole trip, for any lifelong dream of immunizing an elephant
was realized. The Maharajah and his private secretary couldn't have been more helpful, for I was a State Guest, entertained
in the Residency at Bangalore and in Government House in Mysore, with a huge suite in the latter. Then the Maharajah let
me use two of his most valuable elephants, and will allow more to be worked with, as well. He also had the big dam and park
specially illuminated for one last Wednesday as I couldn't stay for the usual weekend show. It was really a marvelous
sight, with flowing cascades and fountains in changing colors, beautiful designs in colored lights, and everything most artistically
worked out. I had a short interview with him in his enormous palace, but we didn't play, as he wasn't well.
To get the elephants, Drs. Rao and Doraiswamy and I had to round up the [. . .] veterinarian and the chief forest ranger.
We then drove 45 miles to Karapur, on the edge of the jungle, where three elephants came along out of the woods for their
bath. While they were enjoying themselves in the river one of the assistant rangers we had picked up scooped up some of the
muddy water the elephants had waded through and brushed his teeth with and his finger! I suppose the mud served as toothpaste.
When they came out and had blown dust all over themselves to keep off the flies, the biggest one, a tusker 52 years old, was
persuaded to lie down and be bled from his ear and be injected with the solution made from the materials brought. By the
time they worked on the second one, the team was quite
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expert and it went more smoothly, with the beast only whiffing rather, pathetically in feeble protest. When he got up he
went right on chewing leaves and branches just as if nothing had happened. I got to like Dr. Subrahmanyan, the director of
the Food[?] Research Institute very much, and he wants me to come back with Charlie and his family and stay several months,
at least. There was long and spirited discussion after both of my lectures at Mysore, and I particularly enjoyed the one
for the medical students, who are a fine, keen lot. Most of the Indians like to laugh, and the educated ones, at least, are
very pleasant to be with. I really wish I could stay longer and I certainly must come again.
It was good to get a second letter from you. I'm sure you wrote more than that, but as far I haven't seen them.
I finally had a second one from Charlie, too, and three from Hazel.