In this letter to his friend and prospective colleague Edwin Kreb, Kornberg described the benefits of working at NIH, as well
as his feelings about the changes that were occurring there at the time, such as the building of the new Clinical Center.
Number of Image Pages:
3 (160,995 Bytes)
1949-02-17 (February 17, 1949)
Kreb, Edwin G.
University of Washington
Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Arthur Kornberg.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
From Physician to Enzyme Hunter, 1942-1953
February 17, 1949
It was really very pleasant hearing from you because we had wondered many times how you folks were getting along and really
hadn't had much to go on. I agree it would be fun to compare Sally's and Rogers merits, but we will have to include
Tommy in the picture too. He's three months old now and a very pleasant little boy.
Your account of the set-up in Seattle certainly offers compelling reasons for making some change. I feel just as you do that
these next few years are very precious for us and should be spent in the most optimal environment for intense work. I am
inclined to agree with you that the pathology jobs are not entirely without hitches. It would seem that the best environment
is in a department of biochemistry where there is a lot of stimulation and mutual assistance, and one has relatively less
to gain at our stage as isolated specialists.
The Institute is in a state of very rapid change or, better, enlargement, and it is difficult to predict what its strong points
and weak points will be even a year from now, but I am rather hopeful that it will continue to be a very good place to work.
The foundation of the giant new clinical center is already half built and the rest of this 50 million dollar building is well
under way. It will be a hospital devoted completely to research and will have 500 beds with extra research facilities that
will be several times as great as the present Institute. A rough comparison might be made with the Rockefeller Institute
Hospital which has only 60 beds. I mention these things because you still seem to be interested in them, though for my part
are regard it more as a potential threat rather than a possible benefit.
Our set-up now is awfully nice. We have six fair-sized laboratories and two large cold rooms, equipped as well as we want
them, and a liberal budget for further equipment and assistance. I think you may recall meeting Bernie Horecker and Leon
Heppel at Atlantic City. Bernie is well along in the isolation of TPM cytochrome reductase from liver and Leon is doing almost
is well with the analogous DPN enzyme. We have a Fellow in organic chemistry, Schrecker, who has synthesized riboflavin phosphate
and is now isolating the FAD synthesizing enzyme of yeast. It seems rather likely that Ohlmeyer will come here from Germany
for a 1 to 2-year Fellowship. Another possible addition is Seegmiller who worked with Barron and is completing his internship
Financially, but Commissioned Corps is rather attractive. I now have the rank of Senior Surgeon which is comparable to Commander,
and with recent extra pay allowances the annual pay runs somewhere near $9,000. The two grades below this one are separated
by something less than $1,000 each. I have found absolutely no infringement on complete freedom to do just what I thought
would be the most fun to do. Under a recent reorganization of the Institute, we constitute the Enzyme and Metabolism Section
of the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Nutrition of the Experimental Biology and Medicine Institute. The other Institutes
of the new National Institutes of Health are Dental, Mental Hygiene, Cancer, and Microbiology. I have detailed these because
the plan is to have the Experimental Biology and Medicine Institute devoted to fundamental research with no restriction to
any disease, as contrasted with the other Institutes. The only group during biochemistry of the time that you would be interested
in is Greenstein's in Cancer, and I don't think your ideas and plans would find the most suitable environment there.
I don't know whether it you would be interested in joining our group, and it is also a big question how our space situation
is going to be. On the whole, I am very anxious for you to join the Health Service, both for your sake and that of the Service.
But it is really desirable that you line up a rather specific assignment before going ahead with any application. Is it necessary
that you reach some decision before the Detroit meeting? Perhaps it would be worth while for you to overshoot Detroit and
drop in here at the Institute on your way there or back to look the place over. In any case, I will be thinking about the
whole business, looking around for more information to talk over what we get together in Detroit. It would be nice though
if you could make an extra effort to come here. We would really love to have you.
We now have some rather big names at the Institute, some for only temporary stays -- Warburg, Szent-Gyorgyi, Houssay, Wyckoff,
etc. It is really quite a joint! I would like to go on, but this is getting a little unwieldy and will have to save the juicier
gossip for next time.