Letter from George W. Beadle to Barbara McClintock
Beadle related to McClintock the work on the origin of maize that he had conducted since his administrative retirement several
years earlier. He indicated a hope that McClintock would publish her evidence on the same topic soon, or share it with him.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
5 (285,798 Bytes)
1972-01-22 (January 22, 1972)
Beadle, George W.
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Barbara McClintock Papers
Courtesy of the Barbara McClintock Papers, American Philosophical Society.
The National Library of Medicine's Profiles in Science
program has made every effort to secure proper permissions
for posting items on the web site. In this instance, however,
it has either not been possible to identify or contact the
current copyright owner.
If you have information regarding the copyright owner,
please contact us at
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Searching for the Origins of Maize in South America, 1957-1981
Letter from Barbara McClintock to George W. Beadle (February 14, 1972)
Letter from George W. Beadle to Barbara McClintock (February 17, 1972)
Letter from Barbara McClintock to George W. Beadle (February 24, 1972)
Box Number: 1
Folder Number: 4
5533 Dorchester Ave
Chicago Ill 60637
Jan 22, 1972
I imagine you've heard via the grapevine, or otherwise, that since my retirement from administration three years ago,
I've gone back to work on the origin of corn. I never believed the evidence was any good for Paul Mangelsdorf's tripartite
hypothesis that teosinte is a recent (or remote) product of hybridization or that there was ever a wild corn of the kind he
postulates from archeological evidence. I believed years ago that teosinte was a logical wild ancestor and still do.
For three years now I've been accumulating evidence, mostly from F2 and BC hybrids of various teosintes and corns. The
recovery of good corns and good teosintes says no more than 4 or 5 independently segregating units. I agree that these are
in some instances clusters of linked genes but that is to be expected from the repeated transfer of genes from teosinte to
corn over the last 7000 plus years in the areas where they coexist.
Last November 18 of us from 4 universities were down in the teosinte country of Mexico where we spent 126 man (one woman)
days looking at and
[END PAGE ONE]
[BEGIN PAGE TWO]
collecting seeds from 75000 plants. Randolph was along -- remarkably spry for his age -- and so were anthropologists, ethnobotanists,
taxonomists etc. Kato was a very effective person in charge of one group of 9. I think we all learned a good deal.
Knowing the cohabitation characteristics of corn and teosinte in the areas where they grow together as extensively documented
by Garrison Wilkes who was along as leader of the second group, it seems to me that teosintes that grow in association with
local corn types, and have for long periods, are bound to be alike in many genes of the kind that do not differentiate them.
Man keeps selecting out the good corn types that acquire hybrid vigor from the successive backcrosses of hybrids to corn and
natural selection does the counterpart for successive backcrosses to teosinte. Thus to identify the essential genetic and
cytological differences between the two, these are the logical populations to compare -- those that coexist and have for long.
Wilkes documents many negative characteristics
[END PAGE TWO]
[BEGIN PAGE THREE]
that do this shuffling back and forth but of course these are not the ones essential for survival for the two extremes.
If I am correct, there is some published evidence that this sharing tends to exist for knobs. I know you have much evidence
on this but I'm told lots that is not published. As a result of a good deal of recent work of Walt Galinat's (we've
been keeping in close touch), Paul is changing his views fairly rapidly. I believe he has given up the corn crossed with Trypsaam
[sic] origin of teosinte but not his wild corn. I believe the knob data can be very significant, so I hope you are planning
to summarize and publish yours before too long. In the meantime I'd be grateful to know how many comparisons of pairs
of corn and teosintes known to share the same areas for long times -- i.e. local lines of corn grown for long periods in an
area where teosinte is abundant.
If this is not available I think it would be very important to get it. You of course are the ideal person to do it but I realize
[END PAGE THREE]
[BEGIN PAGE FOUR]
you may not have the time and energy to do more than you are already doing. I've been in close contact with Kato and he
might be persuaded to do more. I know him as a superb field man but I have no idea how good he is as a cytologist. If these
comparisons I suggest have not been made rather systematically -- i.e. the data not collected, -- and you cannot be persuaded
to do them, do you think Kato could? If so it would be good for both science and Kato. I rather get the impression he has
not made a really good niche for himself at CIMMYT and I'd like to see him do it.
In the genetic work in which Ive [sic] grown populations of ca. 40000 plants in Mexico, Mario Gutierrez of CIMMYT has been
a superb collaborator. Whenever he is in charge, I know things will be right.
Muriel and I are now in Davis Calif where we are doing a 2 week stand as co-visiting lecturers on such subjects as Urban Renewal
(both) Pre-school Years (M)
[END PAGE FOUR]
[BEGIN PAGE FIVE]
Harper Court (M, -- a not-for-profit artisan's center in Chicago in which Muriel has played a big role), History of Biochem
Genetics (I) and The Origin of Corn (I). One week is gone and we find it very stimulating. We see a lot of Dobie, Ledyard
Stebbins, Charlie Rick and some of Dillard who is head of the Dept. We'll be back in Chicago about Febr.
I have an part time appointment at the U of Chi but have given up a 1/4 - 1/2 time job as Pres of the Chi Hort Soc which I
took pending a permanent full time one. Now we have Louis Martin from Brooklyn Botanical coming so Ill [sic] have pretty much
full time for corn work.
I hope all goes well with you. I know, whatever you are doing, you'll be doing it with the devotion energy and effectiveness
with which you've always worked. Now that I'm on corn again, I think often -- more often for I always did -- about
those good old days at Cornell.