Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
Reproduced with permission of David T. Edsall.
The Synthesis of DNA, 1953-1959
Letter from Arthur Kornberg to John T. Edsall (December 11, 1957)
Letter from Arthur Kornberg to the editors of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (December 11, 1957)
December 27, 1957
I am returning your manuscripts under separate cover, having read them with the deepest interest. There is no doubt in my
mind of the profound importance of the work you report. It is certainly an exciting experience to read a detailed report
of this degree of significance after having had to review a good many rather mediocre papers for the JBC during the last year.
I certainly think that this is outstanding, and of course it opens up immense vistas for future work. I knew the general
outlines from your lectures in Boston last year, but I find it even more impressive on examining the full details.
As to the comments offered by the editor who criticized your manuscript (who obviously consulted two or three referees also),
there are many of them that I do not feel qualified to judge. However, it is my own personal conviction that these comments
are offered quite without malice, and simply in the belief that every paper submitted to the JBC deserves a very thorough
going over. I had a chance to talk with Dr. Vickery about this. He had not seen the correspondence or had anything to do
with handling the manuscript or correspondence himself, but when he looked it up he expressed the opinion that this letter
was no tougher than many which they send out every year. He also expressed the opinion that the editor who prepared the letter
would have said the same things to you, even more bluntly, if he had been discussing the matter with you in personal conversation.
Personally, however, I must say that I never would have passed the passage referring to "banalities". This is not
only rude but is also not in the least a fair of the passages, in my opinion. In general I think your reply to your critic
is quite reasonable in tone. I hesitate to express too positive a view abut these matters, since I have no official responsibility
whatever as to the way in which these manuscripts are handled. I hope, however, that the differences of opinion about them
can be resolved rapidly, since this is certainly very important work and it ought to be made available to the scientific world
without undue delay. I am very glad indeed to have had a chance to read it before publication.
I am keeping the copy of the correspondence by the editors and yourself, in case the New Haven office raises any questions
with me about this. In any case I feel very strongly, as the future editor of the JBC, that I should be extremely disappointed
if work of this sort were not to appear in the Journal but were to be sent somewhere else.