Skip to main contentU.S. National Library of MedicineU.S. National Library of Medicine

Profiles in Science
Pinterest badge Follow Profiles in Science on Pinterest!

The Michael Heidelberger Papers

Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Michael Heidelberger pdf (80,851 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Michael Heidelberger
In this exchange between Heidelberger and the molecular geneticist Joshua Lederberg, the two agree on the need to elucidate in detail the chemical composition and three-dimensional structure of pneumococcal polysaccharides. As a molecular geneticist, Lederberg was interested in the structure of pneumococcal polysaccharides because pneumococcus was the organism in which DNA-mediated transformation--the transfer of genetic information carried by DNA--was first observed by Oswald Avery and colleagues. Lederberg believed that detailed knowledge of the structure of pneumococcal polysaccharides would help in understanding the action of the genes that code for them.
NOTE: Dr. Heidelberger's response is written at the bottom of the letter.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (80,851 Bytes)
1956-11-30 (November 30, 1956)
Lederberg, Joshua
Heidelberger, Michael
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Molecular Structure
Exhibit Category:
"If I Have a Few More Years to Work, I'm Going Ahead": An Active Retirement, 1954-1991
Metadata Record Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Michael Heidelberger (November 12, 1956) pdf (60,173 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Metadata Record Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Joshua Lederberg (November 28, 1956) pdf (71,680 Bytes) ocr (1,348 Bytes)
Box Number: 4
Folder Number: 1
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Folder: MS C 245 (first finding aid)
November 30, 1956
Dear Dr. Heidelberger:
Thank you for your answer of the 28th to my inquiry about the pneumococcal polysaccharides. In the interim, I have gotten to see the Macy Foundation Symposium, and have learned worlds of details from the discussion there. I am also looking forward to studying the articles you cited in your letter.
There is every reason the geneticists should understand the structures of the compounds they are dealing with is the pneumococcus transformations. Until now, this has not been looked at as a typical problem in "bicohemical genetics" perhaps because of the difficulties of defining the synthetic steps. But I am hopeful that the genetic approach can be tied in with other chemical synthesis. Bernheimer made a start of it some time ago, but without much success. Any chance of you getting into that? If there were any way of encouraging that, I would.
Your sincerely,
Joshua Lederberg
Dear Joshua:
I'm really surprised after poor Mark Adams' devastating blast at the Macy Foundation Symposium, that you found anything worth reading in it!
The pneumococci must have some very active and complete transferase in order to build up so many type-specific substances often from only a very few sugars. It ought to be possible to use such enzymes in vitro, perhaps with a little of the appropriate DNA to give direction to the process. I would gladly encourage you to go into it--it will take an experienced enzyme chemist, but with good bacteriological technique, for the bugs are virulent.
Metadata Last Modified Date:
Linked Data:
RDF/XML     JSON     JSON-LD     N3/Turtle     N-Triples