Letter from Barbara McClintock to William L. Brown
McClintock related her experiences from her recent trip to South America for the Rockefeller Foundation.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (188,854 Bytes)
1959-04-01 (April 1, 1959)
Brown, William L.
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Barbara McClintock Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Barbara McClintock Papers, American Philosophical Society.
Searching for the Origins of Maize in South America, 1957-1981
Box Number: 1
Folder Number: 5
April 1, 1959
Thank you for giving me dates that would be convenient for you to see me. Just now, I am held-up on a decision as to an exact
date until I hear directly from Wellhausen, which should be toward the end of this week or this coming Monday at the latest.
When Harrar called me last Friday he mentioned that the Rockefeller Foundation would pay my salary while I was in Mexico.
In this regard, I suspected that Caryol Haskins, the President of Carnegie, would want me to stay with Carnegie and this proved
to be the case. I talked with Haskins Friday night and he was most desirous that I take on the project but he wished that
my salary be continued by Carnegie rather than be paid by Rockefeller. I called Harrar on Monday to inform him of this and
also stated at the time that I wished to discuss the race problem with you in the near future. He told me that he would cable
Wellhausen, who is in Peru, asking him to write me immediately and that after the letter arrived, we could take up the financial
aspects, including the expenses of a trip to Iowa. Thus, I will contact you as soon as these needed details are attended
to. I had not planned that the Rockefeller Foundation pay my expenses for this trip. However, since they are not going to
pay my salary, I do not feel too bad about it.
Your remark at the end of our discussion in St. Louis that you wished we had accomplished more was shared by me in spirit.
But, I realized that we could not advance rapidly with such a large group. It had been my intention when I talked to Edgar
on the phone after returning from Colombia, to make arrangements to see only you and Edgar and I was disturbed when I learned
that others were to be included for it meant diversions and digressions from the main theme. Also, at the time I made the
suggestion to Edgar for a meeting, I was unaware that you would become informed of the results of the Colombia project in
advance of our meeting. My purpose in wishing to talk with you and Edgar was to get your suggestions on the best way to proceed
in the future in the light of the evidence obtained in Colombia, assuming as I do at present that there have been some distinct
centers from which maize has migrated, and that these centers could be traced by means of an analysis of the chromosome constitutions
of present day races of maize. Where, then, could one expect to find such centers? Where are the regions in which races
of maize may not have been contaminated with races from other areas, such as isolated valleys, isolated Indian tribes, or
where special ecological conditions exist that might exclude contamination? And, reciprocally, what races are suspected to
be imports from elsewhere? What races could be expected to illustrate introgressions of maize from particular centers or
with particular imports? Also, what unpublished information is available regarding chromosome constitutions of some of the
races? And, another important question: How carefully have the collections been made and propagated? With regard to the
last question, the situation in Columbia was exceptionally fine but that in Peru was suspect.
The above questions illustrate the areas in which my knowledge is deficient and in which I need illumination in order to proceed
thoughtfully. These are some of the questions that I had hoped to consider with you and Edgar. It was not possible to do
this with Edgar the day after our meeting. We took the trip to the Arboretum and spent all day there but Edgar's mental
state at the time could not be adapted to the subject and I gave up all hope of accomplishing anything with him that day.
I will get in touch with you in one way or another as soon as plans are formulated with the Rockefeller Foundation. I am
certainly going to need your help and I am grateful for your willingness to give it.