In 1966, geneticist and Nobel laureate George Beadle and his wife Muriel published a laymen's guide to genetics titled
"The Language of Life: An Introduction to the Science of Genetics." In this 1965 letter, Muriel Beadle asked Kornberg
to clarify some details of his DNA synthesis work to include in the book.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (73,713 Bytes)
1965-01-26 (January 26, 1965)
Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Redmond J. Barnett.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Awards and Prizes
"Creating Life in the Test Tube," 1959-1970
Letter from Arthur Kornberg to Muriel Beadle (February 4, 1965)
Letter from Muriel Beadle to Arthur Kornberg (February 14, 1965)
January 26, 1965
Dear Professor Kornberg,
This is going to be a version of those letters from schoolchildren that say, "Dear Sir, Will you tell me what you did
to win a Nobel prize and why it was important, and please write by Friday because my term grade depends on it". In other
words, I am presuming on friendship, and am asking you to answer a couple of questions that George, if he had the time, or
that I, if I had the ability, could probably find the answer to ourselves, in the professional literature. Here it is:
After you had synthesized DNA, using a primer, you then let the basic mix of raw materials just sit for a while, right? From
this, after a lag period, you got a spontaneously-formed DNA, right? What I want to know is: how long was the lag period?
Hours, days, weeks? Secondly, was it deliberate -- that is, did you keep a watchful eye on it, hoping that you'd get
DNA without a primer; or was the outcome a case of serendipity?
The reason I want to know this is that George is directing and I am writing a book on biochemical genetics intended for a
reader that we keep calling "the unintelligent layman", although we really mean the uninformed but curious layman.
In other words, it is extremely simple, much more so than most other books written for the layman. It differs also in that
we attempt to describe the procedures used in some of the great experiments, not just the findings; and, in addition, in that
we are trying, by anecdote, to humanize The Scientist. It is for this latter reason that I am curious about the element of
luck, if any, in your getting DNA without the use of a primer.