17 December 1953
Professor Farrington Daniels, President
American Chemical Society
Department of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin
I thank you for your letter of 10 December, and for your efforts to obtain a satisfactory
solution to the situation about the application for membership in the American Chemical
Society by Mme. Joliot Curie. I may say that I do not understand the situation at
all. I judge that you have some information that I do not have, and perhaps I have
some that you do not have.
I am very much troubled by the sentence in your letter "Certainly it appears to be
a communist trap designed to embarrass us." It seems to me that the only thing that
embarrasses the American Chemical Society is the action of its Membership Committee.
What possible embarrassment could there be to the American Chemical Society if Mme.
Joliot-Curie were to be accepted as a member?
On the second page of the letter you say "Sincerity of purpose is an obvious requirement
for the privilege of membership in the ACS or any other organization. A person who
applies for membership for political purposes or to create political difficulties
should be denied admission."
Do you have any evidence whatever of a lack of sincerity of purpose on Mme. Joliot-Curie's
part in applying for membership in the ACS? It seems to me that the American Chemical
Society could expect to have Mme. Joliot-Curie as one of its members. She is interested
in chemistry -she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I do not know whether she
has the journals published by the American Chemical Society conveniently available
to her; if not, I can understand that she would apply for membership in the Society
in order to have its journals in her own office, for ready reference. I should think
that she would have just as much reason for applying for membership in the American
Chemical Society as almost any other of the approximately 100 French scientists who
are now members.
Accordingly I should like to ask you what evidence you have of a lack of sincerity
in her application.
To return to your statement about her application being a communist trap to embarrass
us, I suppose that you mean that if she were
granted membership the American Chemical Society would then be embarrassed through
having a communist as a member - a French communist.
I had not known that the American Chemical Society had any political condition for
acceptance of its members. I have read in the papers, however, that about 20 percent
of French voters are communists, and that the percentage among scientists is higher.
I assume accordingly that about 20, or perhaps more, of the French members of the
ACS are communists.
Also, I should like to ask you if you know that Mme. Joliot-Curie is a communist?
When I was in Paris some years ago I was told by one of the men at the Sorbonne that
it was thought that she was not a communist, although I think it was known or believed
that her husband was a communist. Also, I was told at that time, and again two months
ago, when I visited the Sorbonne, that Mme. Joliot-Curie is not at all active politically.
I think that she may have signed the petition to President Eisenhower, asking clemency
for the Rosenbergs - I judge from Monod's letter published in the Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists that practically all French scientists signed this letter. My impression
is, however, that the statement that she is not active politically may well be correct.
There is one more piece of information that seems to me to throw some light on the
situation. I was told by one of the chemists in the Sorbonne that when Mme. Joliot-Curie
received the letter saying that she was not accepted for membership she told her colleagues
that she thought the American Chemical Society must consider her work to lie in the
field of physics, rather than in the field of chemistry. The men to whom she spoke,
I was told, then suggested to her that this could hardly be the proper reason for
refusing her membership, since her work in fact did have some bearing on chemistry
- enough to have got her the Nobel prize - and that probably the action was to be
attributed to the anti-communist feeling in the United States. When I saw her it
was evident from her remarks that she now thought this to be the explanation but that
she did not have anything more than this general explanation.
Can you tell me if she has been given an answer to the letter that she wrote some
time ago, asking for a statement of the reasons for the refusal of membership to her?
I should be grateful if you could answer this letter immediately. I have delayed my
departure for India, and your answer may well get to Pasadena before I leave.
With best regards, I am