Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Salvador E. Luria
During World War II, a number of biologists and chemists, including Heidelberger, had worked on classified 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, Luria campaigned for a ban on secret research of this
kind, and submitted a resolution to this effect to the Society of American Bacteriologists.
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1947-02-27 (February 27, 1947)
Luria, Salvador E.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
World War II
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Salvador E. Luria to Joshua Lederberg (February 24, 1947)
I have just talked to Clark Eichelberger, Executive Director of the American Association for the United Nations, regarding
the resolution you propose. He feels that it is already covered by the terms of formation of the Atomic Energy Commission,
which was charged with the duty of working out effective prohibitions and controls against the military uses of atomic energy
"and other weapons of mass destruction". Once an effective setup has been organized for atomic energy, control of
V-2, bacteriological warfare, etc. will be that much easier in the form of whatever pattern is established. Differences of
viewpoint on the single objective of atomic energy are so great that more confusion than good would be likely if another class
of weapon were considered at this stage. He suggests sending a committee to interview Senator Austin and get his view as
to where and when the bacteriological question might best be taken up.
With regard to your resolution itself, I believe the first paragraph should be eliminated, as it contributes nothing to the
argument and may prejudice some readers against the remainder.
I am glad you will be able to go to Stockholm, and am looking forward to seeing you there.