I just finished reading Nick Christy's article on Erwin Chargaff. (P&S, Winter 2004). I found it an unfair depiction of Chargaff's personality. I was a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry when he was a member of the faculty. At that time, almost all graduate students, including his, worked in the same large laboratory on the fifth floor of P&S. I became acquainted with him when he visited his students as, on occasion, he would chat with me afterward. I found him to be approachable and helpful and not at all devoid of a sense of humor. He did remark, wryly, on one occasion that the biochemistry department did not believe in paying faculty. (I don't remember how THAT subject came up!)
As to his being "among 24 scientists who contributed in essential ways" to the structure of DNA, I find that to be an unfair remark. Watson and Crick, themselves, have said and written that "Chargaff's rules" were FUNDAMENTAL to their depiction of base pairing in their famous Nobel Prize-winning Nature paper 50 years ago.
BERNARD F. ERLANGER, PH.D.
PROFESSOR EMERITUS, DEPARTMENT OF MICROBIOLOGY, P&S
In the Winter 2004 issue, page 20, in an article about Erwin Chargaff, the writer has taken an incredibly negative approach to a fascinating faculty member. He focuses on Chargaff's disappointment with not winning the Nobel Prize, while ignoring the more fascinating aspects of this man who spoke 15 languages and more or less ignoring Chargaff's many contributions to the intellectual life of P&S of those years. Chargaff's very presence at P&S gave status to the school and to the biochemistry department when I was a student at P&S; he was a very large "giant" in a school that admittedly had many other giants, but he was by far one of greatest scientists at P&S at that time.
The author concludes that Chargaff "was among 24 scientists who contributed" to our understanding of DNA. No, Chargaff was not merely among 24 scientists who helped us understand DNA; he was one of a handful of scientists who provided key evidence, and he was one of the only ones whose contributions approached the importance of those made by Avery and by Watson and Crick.
EDWARD TABOR'73, BY E-MAIL
I was pleased to read Nick Christy's account on page 7 (P&S, Fall 2003) of the McIntosh Era at Babies Hospital. On page 20, I read about the establishment of a clinical trials office in 1992, but I was disappointed to see that there was no mention of the fact that the first ever randomized clinical trials carried out in neonates were carried out at Babies Hospital beginning in 1951. The role of Rusty McIntosh (in giving permission for the then-unprecedented exercise) is, sadly, ignored. Additionally there is no mention of the role of John Fertig, professor of biostatistics at Columbia's School of Public Health (he provided consultations for the ongoing trials at Babies Hospital and he devised a sequential format for these trials, based on Columbia's Professor of Statistics Abraham Wald's wartime inventions).
On the occasion of my 86th birthday I wrote an account of the story of those experiences at the request of Sir Iain Chalmers, editor of the James Lind Library in Oxford. It has been published online (http://www.jameslindlibrary.org/essays/cautionary/silverman.html).
WILLIAM A. SILVERMAN, GREENBRAE, CALIF.
P&S RETIRED PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS
Yes, Dr. Arthur Voorhees certainly was one of the Fathers of American Vascular Surgery. I was fortunate to have scrubbed on many of his vascular cases that he performed with Dr. Blakemore. In those "ancient" days, we wore hoods over our necks to protect ourselves from the ultraviolet "germ killing" rays in the operating room.
As noted by Dr. Kenneth A. Forde in his letter to the editor (P&S, Winter 2004) Dr. Voorhees would take certain measurements, scrub out from the surgery, weave the fabric to be used as a vascular graft, return to the operating table, and place this graft into its proper position. Yes, he certainly was one of the Fathers of Modern American Vascular Surgery and a fabulous surgical teacher.
STAN EDELMAN'53, BY E-MAIL
|Send Letters to:
Editor, P&S Journal
College of Physicians & Surgeons
630 W. 168th St.
New York, NY 10032