Letter from Barbara McClintock to George W. Beadle
In response to Beadle's inquiry, McClintock referred him to her work with Blumenschein and Kato. She further discussed
the promise and prospects of advancing Kato's education as well as the relationship between maize and teosinte.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (228,271 Bytes)
1972-02-14 (February 14, 1972)
Beadle, George W.
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Barbara McClintock Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Barbara McClintock Papers, American Philosophical Society.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Searching for the Origins of Maize in South America, 1957-1981
Letter from George W. Beadle to Barbara McClintock (January 22, 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
February 14, 1972
It was good to get your letter written from Davis with all the news and views of you and Muriel. Yes indeed, I have heard
of your return to maize and, it seems, just where you left off. Of course, you never really turned-off the corn plant. It
was always lurking somewhere--in the backyard, on the front lawn, or on any other piece of soil that was handy! I am delighted,
too, with the direction of your renewed studies. There is good evidence now that your efforts to correct Mangelsdorf's
tripartite hypothesis is having an effect. Unfortunately for so many of us, Paul Mangelsdorf lived in a dream world and with
total conviction of its reality. I mean this quite literally, and can document it with several experiences I had with him.
One of these is responsible for my involvement in tracing the origins of races of maize and for considering the different
genomes that have contributed to them (undoubtedly, various teosintes). This involvement commenced with me being in "high
dudgeon" but ended with me being in a state of excitement over newly discovered relationships and opportunities for finding
new ones. I do wish, however, that your corrective influence had set in earlier. Anthropological textbooks and articles
recite Mangelsdorf's tripartite dream, rote for rote. It has been a powerful dream!
From your letter I assume that you may not be aware of the studies of Kato, Almiro Blumenschein and myself aimed at revealing
origins, migrations, introgressions, introductions, etc. of maize that has been distributed over the Americas. The data
consider chromosome constitutions of individual plants: the location of knobs, their sizes (small, medium, large or very large),
the homozygous or heterozygous state at any one location, and any additional information such as presence or absence of B-type
chromosomes, Abnormal-10, altered chromomeres, differences in the nucleolus organizers, etc. Kato examined maize from all
parts of Mexico and also maize whose seed was obtained from Bill Brown and that originated in the U.S., from Indian tribes
in the Southwest, Central, and Northern U.S. and from his collections made in the South East. Blumenschein examined maize
collected from Northern, Central, and Eastern South America. Initially, I had examined maize from Western South America and
some maize from Mexico and Central America plus the Islands. This was followed by extensive examinations of maize derived
from Central America and the Caribbean Islands by Longley and Kato. Their mode of collecting data was less useful for our
purposes than the more detailed mode later used by Blumenschein and Kato. Some teosintes also were included in these studies.
Thousands of plants have been examined and the results are amazingly satisfying. They are now complete enough to be published.
I was in Mexico City in January to arrange with Kato and Blumenschein for their publication. Although Wellhausen has sponsored
these studies, he has only recently understood their significance. He is now attempting to arrange with CIMMYT for the publications.
The study is worth a review article in some journal having a general distribution. It is unique and the results and conclusions
would interest the anthropologist.
Now, about Kato. He told me that he had not discussed his work with you while you were together this past November. He
did not wish to talk about this work and his conclusions until he knew of my response to his first draft for publication.
It was good. Kato is an exceptionally fine observer of maize and teosinte chromosomes. He is fast and accurate. In drawing
conclusions from his maize studies, he became aware of the necessity for obtaining more information on the chromosomes of
teosintes derived from various geographic locations. He has a number of sporocyte collections in the deep-freeze waiting
to be examined. Also, he needs a Ph.D. and soon. This will be required to obtain a secure job, either with CIMMYT or at
the Agr. School. Both Wellhausen and I have contacted Galinat to inquire if it would be possible for Kato to obtain a Ph.D.
at the University of Mass. with Galinat as the adviser. Galinat's location is not good for this purpose but they do
share a special interest in this one topic. This is important for Kato's future. Galinat's knowledge of chromosomes
is distressingly limited but Kato could supply the needed levers at this juncture.
I do not know how to answer your question on long tern relationship between maize and teosinte without indicating the degrees
of relationships that may be exhibited. There is no Yes or No answer for any one area. Certainly, teosinte and maize in
the Central Mesa, in parts of Guerrero and Oaxaca share many parts of their genomes but not all of them. In contrast, the
maize from Guatemala does not share its genome with the teosinte from Guatemala. These strange relationships that Kato has
found are responsible for his present interest in the teosintes.
It would be like old times to sit and talk about our maize studies. I wish we might do this as now we have much information
of mutual interest to exchange.