Feb. 3, 1948
Dr. Robert B. Corey
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena 4, California
I hope very much that you are getting along well, and are using good judgement about
going back to work. It would be much better for you to stay an extra couple of months
at home now than to get up prematurely and have to go back to bed again later on.
I haven't seen very much of the crystallographers here so for—having been kept very
busy with everything else. I have, however, seen a lot of Dorothy Hodgkin. Also a
young fellow named Poiser came from London the other day to talk to me about working
in America for awhile—he has been in charge of the cement project in Bernal's research
institute. I doubt that there is anything that we would want to do for him. However,
he did make an interesting statement, that he was associated with Bunn in the fly's
-eye investigation of penicillin, and is very optimistic about this method. He said
that it would be possible to try, say, fifty or sixty proposed structures for an organic
compound of moderate complexity in a reasonable length of time—that the intensity
comparison could be made for a structure with a total outlay of time of about two
hours for one man. This would mean that perhaps two or three weeks would be required
to try the fifty or sixty structures. His enthusiasm is so great that I think that
it would be desirable to have Jerry or someone else look into the fly's-eye method,
to see whether or not we should adopt it. It might be very helpful with the amino
acids and simple peptides.
Feb. 3, 1948
Also I saw Perutz for an hour a couple of days ago—he was up on a visit from Cambridge.
He said that one of the men there has got very interesting results with myoglobin.
Its molecular weight is, of course, only 17,000, and the crystal contains two of these
molecules in the monoclinic unit, with a two-fold screw axis. The unit is 30 Å. along
the b axis, and about 65 Å. On each of the other two axes, with a 73 angle between
them. He describes the molecule as a pancake 65 Å. In diameter and 15 Å. Thick, and
says that the data (Patterson) show that there is a single polypeptide chain, folded
presumably into an alpha-carotid fold, and then zig-zagging back and forth in the
plans to give the pancake molecule. Also the optical date show that the one heme group
is perpendicular to the plane—that is, the plane of the heme group is parallel to
the b axis, and presumably this group is attached to the pancake at one edge.
All of this suggests to me that we should get some full-time post-doctorate man at
work gathering data for crystalline proteins. Will you see what can be done about
With best regards, to Mrs. Corey also, I am