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Letter from Francois Jacob to Joshua Lederberg



STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE STANFORD MEDICAL CENTER 300 PASTEUR DRIVE, PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF GENETICS October 28, 1966 Prof. Fransois Jacob Institut Pasteur 25, Rue Du Docteur Roux Paris, FRANCE Dear Prof. Jacob: Dr. Lederberg has asked me to answer your request for a description of our experiences with computer programs for manipulation of bacterial stock collection data. Early in 1963, I wrote such a program for our B. subtilis collection. The pro- gram provided for most of the obvious interrogation demands one might make on a bacterial strain library, e.g. pedigree trees and progeny lists for given strains, strain lists for given marker subsets, etc., and was so designed that its powers could be extended, if desired, by the addition of new subroutines. Although the program was written in a language (SUBALOL) indigenous to the Stanford University IBM 7090 system, a translated (compiled) version is available as a FORTRAN Assembly Program (FAP) card deck, a form acceptable to most other IBM 7090 or 7094 systems. However, the 1963 program was intended primarily as a prototype, an excercise to see what could be done, what problems would arise, and what changes, if any, in the actual organization of our strain data might be worth the trouble. For a variety of reasons, I definitely do not recommend current use of that program, but advise instead a fresh start, building on the 1963 experience as background. Below, I will set down some general considerations arising from that experience, a brief outline of the 1963 program to highlight its shortcomings, and some retros- pective comments, all of which I hope may be of some help to you in formulating your own approach to the matter. The central problem is, quite obviously, to devise a representation of the strain, the associated information (origin, genotype, etc.), and the collection as a whole which permits efficient storage, manipulation, and retrieval of the data. E

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