While on sabbatical at MIT in 1958, Luria received an attractive invitation to join the faculty there, which he accepted.
The University of Illinois administration made a counter-offer, and Luria responded with this letter.
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1959-02-19 (February 19, 1959)
Luria, Salvador E.
Lanier, Lyle H.
University of Illinois
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Salvador Luria Papers
Reproduced with permission of Daniel D. Luria.
Reproduced with permission of the American Philosophical Society.
From Phage to Colicins, 1945-1972
Letter from Lyle H. Lanier to Salvador E. Luria (February 13, 1959)
I wish to thank you very much for your letter of February 13, 1959, and to explain to you why I have decided to accept the
position offered to me by M. I. T.
As you know, my main interest is in participating in the building of an outstanding training and research center in biology.
I am certain that this can be accomplished in both placer and I also realize that such an accomplishment at Illinois would
be a more valuable public service. The reasons for my choosing M. I. T. are purely personal; the opportunity for me to develop
a biology training program of an unusual kind, and the opportunity for Zella to pursue a career of her own in a completely
separate institution. While she has always felt welcome in the Psychology Department at Illinois, it would always be difficult
for her to be sure that she is really needed.
I wish to assure you, Provost Ray, and Dean Wall that I shall be leaving Illinois with a very troubled feeling and with nothing
but good will and gratitude for the wonderful way I have been treated by the Administration, my colleagues, and especially
by the Department of Bacteriology. In a sense, Urbana will always be home for us. If there is anything I can do to help
the University or the Department, you can always count on me.
As for the plans you are developing for Biology, I think they will, as a whole, help build a good group. I have some qualms
as to the desirability of vesting too much power in the Executive Committee of the proposed School of Life Sciences, lest
the strongest departments, like Bacteriology and Entomology, be subjected to excessive control from without, I still feel
that a center of Basic Biology, outride the departments, would be a useful instrument for growth.
In my opinion, the keys to success will always be: the procurement of top people for the faculty; the careful handling of
each appointment in terms of the long-term program; and the encouragement of new approaches to biological research and teaching,
unhampered by too many traditional assumptions as to the functions of biology departments.
Please extend my thanks and regards to Provost Ray and Fred Wall. Zella and I were upset at the news of your mother's
illness. We hope her disease may have the slow course often observed in patients of advanced age.