Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Arthur Kornberg.
"Creating Life in the Test Tube," 1959-1970
July 16, 1957
We were delighted to hear that you had decided to buy that lot on the campus and I hope that our inclination to find a place
nearby will be as successful. Pete Webb told us that you had asked Stone to build your house and this will be an exciting
thing to watch. I was very favorably impressed with Webb; our visit went smoothly and the irritations of going over all these
tiresome details were reduced to a minimum.
Dr. Seymour Benzer, who has been at Purdue, is planning to leave and when he heard about our interest in moving to Stanford,
and later our decision to go there, he told Mel Cohn that he would be extremely receptive to an offer in a biophysics division
at Stanford. You probably are aware of Benzer's work. I regard him as one of the most brilliant and experimentally effective
people I have met. He was trained as a physicist and, according to one report I heard, a remarkably good one. He decided
to turn to biology and like many other physicists who develop such an interest, he moved over to microbiology, particularly
its genetic aspects. His first work was in Paris in Monod's laboratory, where he tackled a problem that was admittedly
impossible to solve and proceeded to solve it. This involved the determination of whether bacterial populations during the
course of induced enzyme synthesis behaved homogeneously. He then returned to Purdue and his work during the past four years
on the genetic fine structure of bacteriophages is regarded by some geneticists as the most original and important during
the past decade. In this work he did most of the experimental operations with his own hands and developed ingenious assays
which like Lederberg's replication technique have been informative and useful to others.
He is going to England next year to work with Crick on X-ray diffraction and I know that he is very devoted to pursuing genetics
at a molecular level. Mel tells me that he has an offer of a professorship at Hopkins, but again would much rather go to
Stanford because he prefers its geography, which includes its proximity to Cal Tech and Berkeley, and now would also like
to be close to our group. I'm told he can get complete financial support from outside sources to maintain a small group
which would include a student, a fellow and a technician. These details have come to me in an indirect way and would of course
have to be checked. I wrote to Dr. Twitty of Benzer's availability and he informed me in a letter that he knew of no
available places at Stanford. Presenting the possibility of his filling the job on which you asked my advice is like suggesting
Mickey Mantle when somebody has asked you for a utility outfielder. If this suggestion seems incongruous, please let me know
and I will try to come closer.