Letter from Christian B. Anfinsen to Walter Keighton
In this letter written on the occasion of Keighton's retirement from the faculty at Swarthmore College, Anfinsen fondly
recalled the classes he took from his old professor and briefly surveyed his own career.
It is hard to believe that it has been thirty-four years since I was last exposed to your valiant efforts to stuff useful
chemical information into the heads of the fledgling chemists of the class of 1937. The teaching methods at the college in
those days and the vigor and love with which the teaching process was carried out by you and Jerry Creighton and Duncan Foster
made a real difference for us in the subsequent graduate school years, and we were very conscious of the thoroughness and
quality of our educational background.
In my own case, I gave organic chemistry a whirl for two years and then shifted into biochemistry at Harvard Medical School
after an interlude fellowship at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen. Since receiving my Ph.D. at Harvard in 1943, I have
stuck to biochemistry both at Harvard Medical School until 1950 and at the National Institutes of Health since that time.
Only recently have I returned
in part to the world of organic synthesis in connection with the preparation of synthetic analogs of enzymes, of use in the
study of structure in relation to function.
The National Institutes of Health has been a very good home base for my professional activities. A continual flow of extraordinarily
bright young colleagues has been a source of great personal satisfaction and professional stimulation, and we have indeed
initiated for this large flux of visitors a program based very heavily on the Honors System at Swarthmore College.
I have published quite a large number of scientific papers, book chapters and reviews over the years, and a monograph entitled
"The Molecular Basic of Evolution." I was awarded a Rockefeller Public Service Award in 1954, a Guggenheim Fellowship
in 1958, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1963 and the Royal Danish Academy in 1964. Honorary degrees
have come from Swarthmore, Georgetown University and New York Medical College. I am at present also quite active as a member
of the Executive Council of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
I hope you will have many years of continuing association with the college and with all of us who are so grateful to your
role in our professional lives.