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Letter from Linus Pauling to Robert Corey. February 18, 1948.
Pauling writes to disclose his unease with "the English competition," whose research programs threaten to out-perform the work being done at Caltech. Pauling specifically notes work being done in crystal structure determinations of peptides and proteins. Pauling suggests that Carl Niemann supervise research on the degradation of insulin, which should, in turn, be the subject of crystal structure determinations, to be conducted by Corey.



Balliol College

Oxford, England

Feb. 18, 1948

Dr. Robert B. Corey

Crellin Laboratory

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena 4, California

Dear Bob:

I am glad to have your letter, and to learn how you are getting along.

Has there been anything done about cooperation with Palmer? I am beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable about the English competition. They have a gift for driving straight at the heart of a problem, and getting its solution by hook or crook.

I enclose a copy of a letter to Carl Niemann, about an address that Chibnall gave here last night. They have not succeeded in crystallizing the quarter-molecules, with molecular weight 2,500 or 3,500, but they may succeed, and if they so they will [sic] the crystals to Mrs. Hodgkin. I think that the whole problem is so important that it would be worthwhile to tackle it independently in Pasadena, and see what progress we could make. Would you talk with Carl, and consider the question of how much effort should be put into an immediate attack along pretty much the same lines as those used by Chibnall. You know that the matter of crystallization of a new compound depends so much on chance that, despite the head start that Chibnall has, we might well succeed in obtaining the first crystals. Moreover, the structure determination of peptides with 26 or thereabout amino residues is such a difficult job that I think we could consider it the next step on the journey toward the complete solution of the crystal structure of a protein, a step that sooner or later we shall have to take.


Dr. Corey Feb. 18, 1948

My proposal is that Carl have a man or two begin work at once on the degradation of insulin, and that as fast as reasonably pure materials are made they be turned over to you, for crystallization and x-ray investigation.

The progress that has been made seems to me to be truly astounding. I judge that paper chromatography has been very largely responsible for it.

I am continuing to get along very well—perhaps being kept a little too busy, with so many extra lectures to deliver. However, I feel that when there is so much interest in what I have to say it is proper that I make the effort to say it.

Cordially yours,

Linus Pauling:par


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