Letter from Florence R. Sabin to Robert S. Cunningham
Sabin wrote to tell Cunningham, a former research fellow, about a presentation by Dr. Warren H. Lewis, who attacked Sabin's
earlier work on the origins of red blood cells.
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1925-12-14 (December 14, 1925)
Sabin, Florence R.
Cunningham, Robert S.
Original Repository: American Philosophical Society. Library. Florence R. Sabin Papers
Reproduced with permission of Geraldine F. Swan.
At the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, 1925-1938
Cunningham, Robert S., #11
Dec. 14. 1925.
Dr. Lewis gave the Harvey lecture on Saturday night. He started by saying that he understood that they wanted his own work
so that he would not discuss the work of others but simply give his own. Then he gave some general remarks that were very
good, in the nature of not having formulated any very definite theories but rather used theories just as a means to an end.
Then he gave a very long series of pretty diagrammatic cells from tissue cultures of connective tissue cells and then referred
to the studies of Mrs. Lewis with the blood. In these he showed both the clasmatocytes and the epithelioid cells. Then there
came a series of old cultures of connective tissue which he showed cells that we thought allied to the monocyte strain more
because that showed a marked arrangement of stainable substances around the centrosome.
Then he came to his discussion which was that he did not agree with Maximow in deriving things from lymphocytes but thought
that it was natural that Maximow should come to the same conclusions from cultures as from fixed tissues since he studied
the cultures only fixed. Then he said that he had come to the same conclusions as Mallory and his school except that he was
not sure that any of the cells came from endothelium. That certainly was a good one to agree with Mallory except in his major
The climax of the lecture was an attack on us. He said that he and Mrs. Lewis had restudied the early chicks and had come
to the conclusion that there was no evidence that the red cells come from endothelium. I saw him later about that and he
said that they thought that the cells from the primitive streak simply lodged on the walls of vessels and divided there for
a while and that made reds. Then he said that we had said that clasmatocytes did not have mitochondria nor a centrosome.
That really took my breath away. I find that I said in the Clasmatocyte-monocyte paper that the large highly stimulated ones
we had not seen in the mitochondria in. He said that if one stained with Janus green alone they were always there which may
be true. I am quite sure that I have never said that cells had no centrosome, but rather that the clasmatocytes did not have
the permanent arrangement of substances around the centrosome. I thought that those two statements were a real misrepresentation
of our position. Then he said that they had become convinced of the identity of clasmatocytes and monocytes.
Carrel is also wholly convinced that the two strains are identical. That is as I wrote earlier in the Fall the crux of the
matter, the place where the attack is to be made. Of course the whole Mallory school believe that they are now also Maximow
so we are quite alone. Well we may be wrong but I still think that we are right. Of course they all go back to the connective
tissues, and I think that tissue cultures may carry cells back to very primitive forms, in fact I think that what Carrel get
is de-differentiation, but I think that in adult tissues those two strains represent slightly different normal functions and
markedly different functions in disease. Then I think that the two types of giant cells so markedly different are some evidence
that there were two different types from which they sprang.
I enclose the check for the hundred reprints. Let me know if you think we should pay for more.