Letter from George W. Beadle to Barbara McClintock
Beadle focused primarily on his work on the origin of maize and its link to teosinte in this portion of a series of letters
between the two geneticists.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
6 (333,853 Bytes)
1972-02-17 (February 17, 1972)
Beadle, George W.
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Barbara McClintock Papers
Courtesy of the Barbara McClintock Papers, American Philosophical Society.
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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 Barbara McClintock to George W. Beadle (February 14, 1972)
Letter from Barbara McClintock to George W. Beadle (February 24, 1972)
Box Number: 1
Folder Number: 5
Feb 17, 1972
Thanks for your good letter -- so full of exciting ideas!
Shortly after writing you I had a long letter from Wellhauser telling of your conference and your plans to publish with Kato
and Blumenstein. That's great and I thoroughly agree that all of you should stick to getting the material organized in
form for publication.
I have made a table comparing the Longley-Kato 20 knob positions with Ting's six Mexican teosintes. This does not include
size differences, just positions. All but one of the 20 corn positions are found in the teosintes but there seem to be 4 in
the teosintes not found in the L-K corns. (Incidentally I think Ting got his chromosome 5
[written in left margin, P.S. Kato helped me harvest corn-teosinte hybrids at El Batan and he was the leader of our 1/2 of
the big collecting trip -- 9 people a week in the field. Jim all for him and I hope he will be able to get that degree.]
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end-for end a time or two) I have some unpublished knob data from Sikkim corns by Jain and coworkers at New Delhi. (Muriel
and I were in Pakistan-India An Ford Found a couple of years ago) Three of the four knobs in Mex teosintes not found in L'K
Amer corns are present in Sikkim primitive-type corn. [mark to note, Stoner and Edgar Anderson. Ann Mo Bul[?] Ford[?] 36:355-396
1949] That leaves only one of the K-L knobs of corn not found in the 6 teosintes (limited populations and I'm not sure
how good Ting was with his material) plus only one in the Mex teosintes not found in the L-K corns.
Because of the sterility of Guatemala teosintes with corn (Emerson and I noted this) and with Mexican teosintes, I'm much
inclined to think that Guatemala-Honduras teosintes are an offshoot line that had little or nothing to do with the origin
of corn. Your indicated center of origin in the Rio Balsas where the
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larger populations (really wild too) of Mexican teosintes supports this. Thus if Guatemala and Mexican teosintes were separated
long before corn evolved, then later corn was taken to Guatemala where because of sterility, introgression from teosinte would
be less likely -- both for sterility and probable shorter time of association -- one would expect just what you find i.e.,
poor correspondence of chromosomes in knobs etc. between Guatemala corn and teosinte.
Getting back to the Sikkim corn, this is the stuff Stoner and Edgar Anderson believed was pre-Columbian corn in Asia, which
Paul has pooh-poohed. (in this case I think justly.) In any case it has undoubtedly been separated from American corn since
soon after Columbus. It probably came from South America -- Argentine-Brazil? -- Pauls [sic] paper would indicate this. I
think the Jain et al work should be
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checked. I brought some seed back which George Sprague was going to grow under quarantine conditions at Beltsville. I didn't
follow up and its now lost. But I've written Jain for more seed which Sprague will grow in the GH and, if free of disease,
send me. I hope you'll be willing to have a look.
Do you want to see the Jain et al reports? Its in mimeographed form and I can send it if you like. I saw the plants in New
Delhi and they are indeed rather strange.
I agree with you about Walt Galinat. He has lots of energy and enthusiasm and is a very hard worker. I've wondered about
the cytology but am not such a good judge and[?] that. He has too many irons in the fire and is not too critical. Have you
seen his Ann Rev Genetics piece on the origin? I spent a great deal of time with him on it. His logic is not always good and
he can't write for a darn. Garrison
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Wilkes and I went over the MS a couple of times and made large numbers of changes. Without any encouragement he would not
have dared challenge Paul, but now I think he and Garrison both see the light. Garrison is good -- very smart, very good on
detail. But he has so many interests I'm afraid he won't ever do much research.
Good old Fitz Randolph was on our collecting trip. He now has a long MS defending the generic separation of teosinte which
Walt and I have tried getting him not to publish -- without much effect, I'm afraid.
I have beautiful reconstructions of early archeological corn -- from corn teosinte hybrids -- obviously much closer to teosinte
than is modern corn.
Paul has now been pushed back to the fossil pollen evidence which I'm convinced is no good.
-- over --
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A year and a half or so ago Fitz, Walt and I went over the archeological material at Harvard with Paul. It has more teosinte
characters than reported -- i.e. 2-ranked cobbs and some single spiklets. While we were there Banerjee, a grad student with
Barghoorn showed up scanning electron micrographs of Tripsacum, teosinte and corn pollen exine patterns. Corn and teosinte
are quite indistinguishable but Tripsacum is very different. Banerjee said he didn't want to publish until he got his
degree!! Paul has a powerful hold on Barghoorn it seems. I don't believe one word of his "fossil" corn pollen
[mark to note, For other reasons too.] and Walt doesn't either.