During World War II, a number of biologists and chemists, including Heidelberger, had worked on secret government and military
research projects intended to develop vaccines and antidotes against microorganisms and toxins that were potential biological
and chemical warfare agents, such as anthrax and, in Heidelberger's case, ricin. In order to develop such vaccines and
antidotes, these scientists first had to purify the substances under study, thereby making them more potent. Several of the
scientists involved, including Luria and Heidelberger, were troubled by this blurring between offensive and defensive biological
and chemical weapons research. After the war, they campaigned for a ban on secret research of this kind.
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1947-02-24 (February 24, 1947)
Luria, Salvador E.
Reproduced with permission of Daniel D. Luria.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
World War II
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Salvador E. Luria (February 27, 1947)
A group of local bacteriologists here, after discussing the implications of the secret work on bacteriological warfare, have
felt that it would be useful to make the profession and the public more aware of the dangers involved. We thought the best
way, at least to begin with, might be to submit a resolution to the next meeting of the S.A.B. I am enclosing a tentative
draft, on which we would like to have your comments and suggestions, hoping you will be willing to sign then an accompanying
letter to a larger group that will be asked to act as sponsors of the resolution. As co-drafters, we are also contacting
Dr. VanNiel, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Barnett Cohen, and a few others.
Let me take the occasion to thank you for your suggestion to write to the Rockefeller Found. re a grant from the cytology
congress, where I am scheduled to give a paper on my current work on genetic recombination of lethal mutations in phage--