Medical Research Council. National Institute for Medical Research
Original Repository: Rockefeller Archive Center. Rockefeller Foundation Archives
Reproduced with permission of the National Institute for Medical Research.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Research Support as Topic
Director of Medical Sciences, 1930-1945
Letter from Alan Gregg to H. H. Dale (August 17, 1931)
July 30th 1931
Dear Dr Gregg
I believe that you are on holiday, and must apologize for worrying you with even a hint of business. I am not, as you will
see, going to ask you for more than an informal indication, as to the likelihood of certain proposals being favorably received,
so that I can go ahead and get the requisite details without undue delay.
I have been giving thought, with my colleagues, to the suggestion which you put before me at your visit, and we are preparing
a scheme which I shall hope to put before you soon after the vacation period. Meanwhile, and rather unexpectedly certain
formalities of promising additions to our team of workers on viruses have presented themselves; and it hardly seems right
to delay their consideration until we can present a scheme of personal expansion.
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1. F. M. Burnet, of Melbourne (Australia) is a man on whom I have had my eye for some time past. He worked for a period,
some years ago, at the Lister Institute, and then went back to Melbourne, where he has been producing some striking work on
viruses at the Walker and Eliza Hall Institute. I had hesitated to throw any hint in his direction, lest I might be making
an awkward gap in the staff of that Institute by attracting him over here again. My old friend and colleague Kellaway, the
director, has now, however, written spontaneously to ask whether we can find Burnet an opportunity wider than that which Melbourne
is likely to afford. He speaks of him as a man of brilliant originality, needing more chance of cooperation with other virus
workers than Melbourne can give. I believe we should eventually do a real service to the program of virus investigations
in the whole world, if we could get Burnet over for even a few years with a possibility of his ultimate return, with wider
experience and equipment, to Australia.
2. R. H. Fischer, who has in recent years been on Kolle's staff at Frankfurt, seeks opportunity to come to us for about
18 months, particularly with a view to getting experience of virus research and later
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using it in Germany. He is in a different class from Burnet in that he has not hitherto worked on viruses. On the other
hand he has a "good record of very sound and accurate work on more conventional immunology.
I have not yet made sufficient formal enquiries with regard to these men to be able to make proposals in financial detail.
Fischer would probably be very pleased to get something of the order of 400 pounds p.a. One of the usual travelling fellowships
might be adequate for him but I should prefer not to lease the possibility of our getting his help to the chance of his choice,
out of a possibly large field of applicants, by the [. . .] We probably ought to offer Burnet a higher salary more comparable
to that of a man of Wilson Smith's experience (700-800 pounds p.a.).
There is one other direction in which our work could be quickly aided by a temporary addition to
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personnel. Elford's filtration membranes have become to important a tool of our virus work that he is in danger of being
turned into a membrane-maker, to his colleagues' [. . .], to the detriment of his chance of further advance. I should
like to be able to free him presently to go to Sweden, to make contact with Svedborg's work on ultrafiltration. What
I want for him is a young colleague, with good physics-chemical training, and a desire to turn it to biological use. I could
easily pick up one in this country, but it occurs to me that, in the general interest of virus work, you might like to consider
providing the means for us to have a suitable young American in this capacity.
All I want to put to you at present is the question, whether I should go ahead with enquiries in the direction indicated,
pending our further consideration of a wider scheme. I do not want to give you the idea that we shall be worrying you with
a number of minor and successive applications. On the other hand, I thought you might wish to know that in the all-important
matter of increasing our personnel for this work, there are certain favorable possibilities open at the moment, which we might
lose by deferring action until other proposals are ripe. Will you let me have your general view?