University of Wisconsin. College of Agriculture. Department of Biochemistry
Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Robert Baldwin.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Research Support as Topic
Equipment and Supplies
"Creating Life in the Test Tube," 1959-1970
Letter from Arthur Kornberg to Robert Baldwin (May 27, 1959)
May 20, 1959
I was pleased to get your postcard from Russia. It sounds as if you had a good trip.
Everyone here expects to leave for Stanford in time to arrive the first week in July. I'll hope to arrive just about
July 1; fortunately the Colloid Symposium in Minneapolis is earlier in June than I had remembered.
My request for research funds to the National Science Foundation has been approved (without any cuts! -- but it was a modest
request). And it seems probable that the N.I.H. fund for work on casein can be transferred to Stanford, although this may
take some time. But if the two graduate students can be supported for a while out of the training grant, I should have sufficient
funds to meet my commitments.
In regard to decisions on equipment, the spectropolarimeter has caused me the most concern. Basically the problem is this.
At present there is only one instrument available (the Rudolph) which is satisfactory for studies of the rotatory dispersion
of macromolecules. This is the instrument used in every major investigation in this field - for example in the current work
of Doty, Schellman and Harrington. On the other hand Zeiss is bringing out an instrument which is not suitable for dispersion
studies but which should be almost as good as the Rudolph for measurements at a single wave length in the visible. This instrument
will be cheaper than the Rudolph and undoubtedly more rugged. We really should have an instrument for studying dispersion,
however. We can do many studies at a single wave length, but I hate to be limited to this -- particularly since measurements
of the dispersion itself have become routine in the protein field. Now Zeiss also say (or at least their man at the Federation
Meetings said) that in the future they will bring out such an instrument. Thus far the Zeiss representatives in this country
(Brinkmann) won't even quote me a delivery time on the single wave length instrument.
My conclusion is this: if we are pinched for funds for equipment, we probably can squeeze by with the Zeiss single wave length
instrument, which I would guess can be obtained in six months. If we are not pinched for funds we should order the Rudolph
now: it will be about $11,500 and would be delivered in 4 to 5 months. I will send the technical data to Peter Hoefer, along
with some other quotations on equipment. The Zeiss instrument is not more accurate than the Rudolph (in fact, slightly less
so) but it undoubtedly is better made and more reasonably priced. (I expect the single wave length instrument -- for which
I have not yet got a formal quotation -- to be about $4,500.) I will leave the actual decision up to you, on the basis of
how far the funds for equipment are going. We certainly will need a photoelectric polarimeter of some kind within roughly
six months. I believe I've canvassed the other possibilities (Applied Physics, Perkin-Elmer, Leitz, Standard Polarimeter).
Leitz will probably have a satisfactory instrument, but not until a year from now at the earliest. And they wouldn't
quote a price.
Finally one more thorny question, that of the Australian physical chemist interested in postdoctorate work. I'm enclosing
copies of his letter to me and also my reply. I've written Professor Jordan for his estimate of Inman's abilities
but I think that probably I have a pretty good picture of these already. A good friend of mine, Peter Dunlop, is now a senior
lecturer in Jordan's dept. and has written me about Inman. Also Mike Creeth, who is doing some sabbatical research in
Chemistry here, was at Adelaide until a month ago and knows Inman quite well. Mike taught the physical chemistry lab, and
Inman was a student "demonstrator." Both Mike and Peter agree that Inman is a clever experimentalist, a mature research
worker, a pleasant person to work with, and not very mathematically inclined, as physical chemists go.
In the meantime I've discussed with Gerry Wake the possibility of doing physical studies on DNA. (Gerry is the postdoctorate
fellow who has been working with me on casein and who will go along to Stanford.) He is not only willing but enthusiastic
about doing this. When I wrote to him from Copenhagen about my going to Stanford, I emphasized that he would be free to continue
his studies on casein if he chose to. His Ph.D. work was on casein, and he was anxious to continue with this in doing postdoctorate
work. However time and distance have a way of changing one's point of view.
At any rate, the point is this. I can get work going on the enzymatically synthesized DNA whether or not Inman comes. Being
somewhat theoretically inclined myself, I prefer to work with someone who can do experiments efficiently when it comes to
a project where lots of experiments are in order. And Gerry certainly would fit in well here. I've been very enthusiastic
about the work he's done here on casein. He's succeeded in something I've tried to do for several years, namely
separate the fractions of casein by a direct method (the one which has finally worked is gel electrophoresis in concentrated
urea solutions). He was trained as a physical biochemist in a biochemistry dept. (at Sydney), and knows about as much about
DNA as I do. Nevertheless I think he will learn fast.
So again I will leave the decision to you. If we were to get someone trained in the physical chemistry of DNA to work on
the enzymatic synthesis, I doubt if we would find someone better than Inman. On the other hand, if it seems desirable to
hold down the numbers in the department, I'm confident that we could get a good program on DNA under way without him.