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Letter from Harriett Ephrussi-Taylor to Joshua Lederberg

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JanwrY 9, 1950. Dear xarriott: Thank you very muuh fw your letter. I do not often encounter a critic, like yourmlf, both aaeptiaal am3 infomed, and 1 am only sorry that we don’t have better opportunities to lock horns. Perhapa fortunately, w oonments oh your paper could not be in- eluded in the review article that I mentioned in 19y last letter. This haa now been published, and you should reueive a reprint shortly. On p. 18 there is a remark that “the more aredibls reports uniformly picture the acquisition o# a genetio function,...f’ which I hope you will not take in refermace to your rcraent work. The sentsncs waa written before your papers were published, and I had in mind only Boivin’s oorreation of the alaim that he had seen a faansformatlon fn L co11 from maarose+ to suarom-, (although, of aourae, even this is not neueaearUy a nlo889)/ You are certainly quite right that there ia no unequivocal evidence on tigeneral groundsftfor differentiatedgenetirr inaterial,and that the peraistenoe of a single resi/baal molemale of the ~‘phenotypic oharaater” may be eanntial. for genetic continuUp in bacteria. Fiowevert since you accept the conclusion, there may not be much poI&t In laboring an argu- mbnt which at best is far from rigorous. I al80 agxvs with you al80 (and this is somewhat aonfessional) that som of u11 genetiuirPta may aometimm emit ah aroma of a ‘Iholier than thou” attitude about genetic? problem in baatsriology.,I think that an evangelistia spirit may have, been justified in trying to put over that there is a problem of heredity and genetic uontimUy which haa to be considered - snd this has been especially true with the lmue of adaptive mutationa, for which adeAttedly there is little or no rigorous or final proof on either aide, in any imtzm~e. Perhap itwill be enough if 3 r&rk only that the approaoh embodied in the JEM paper wae *rely a little negative, at a time when there is a body of evidence whioh ehould be examined, if not innoaentl

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