In this letter Heidelberger commented on a hypothesis regarding the chemical structure of antibodies and the location of the
sites at which they bind to antigens developed by Linus Pauling, the world's preeminent physical chemist at the time.
Pauling's article was published as "A Theory of the Structure and Process of Formation of Antibodies" in the Journal
of the American Chemical Society 62 (1940), pp. 2643-2657.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (83,908 Bytes)
1940-07-01 (July 1, 1940)
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Linus Pauling to Michael Heidelberger (April 3, 1940)
Letter from Linus Pauling to Michael Heidelberger (June 21, 1940)
A Theory of the Structure and Process of Formation of Antibodies (July 27, 1940) (in The Linus Pauling Papers)
I have read your finely considered treatise with the greatest interest and enjoyment. As I told you, I feel that it marks
a real step forward in formulating on a chemical basis that exceedingly complicated, but essentially chemical processes of
immunity. I like everything about your end-chain picture except the name "claspers" -- on account of its connotations
I'm "bearish" on that. Wouldn't it do to call them "combining groups", or "immunologically reactive
groupings", or even "haptens"? I think Ehrlich called the "haptophores", but I don't care much for
I've scrawled some minor comments on the manuscript as I went along, and a few longer ones on the accompanying sheet.
One of the fine things about Marrack's book is that he lets himself go and speculates a bit on the basis of sound knowledge
and careful reasoning. I like this same quality about your article -- if one looks only backward and not forward, one may
explain much, but it will be stodgy and unstimulating.
I'm writing to this effect, to Lamb, and hope the J. Am. Chem. Soc. Will take the paper, but I am wondering whether you
might not rather have it in Chem. Reviews, where it might come somewhat more readily to the attention of biologists and immunologists?
However, I'm leaving this to you and not mentioning it to Lamb.
In a few days we plan to leave on our projected trip West, and I hope, by the first of August, to have the pleasure of discussing
these matters with you, seeing your laboratories, and renewing our acquaintance, so pleasantly begun.
With kindest regards to you and Mrs. Pauling, in which my wife joins,