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Letter from William Castle to Linus Pauling. May 22, 1963.
Castle writes to inform Pauling of a recently-issued press release that inaccurately describes the history of Pauling and Castle's respective research on sickle cell anemia. Castle includes the text of a letter that he wrote to an author associated with the inaccurate press release which describes Castle's recollection of the series of events that led to Pauling's conceptualization of sickle cell anemia as a molecular disease.


=REC’D MAY 23 1963






May 22, 1963

Dr. Linus Pauling

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

Dear Linus:

By chance someone drew my attention to a news release for the morning papers as of Friday, May 10 from the University News Office at the Medical School. It concerned the prospective publication by Vallee and Wacker, J.A.M.A. 184: 485-489 (May 11), 1963 and had been seen neither by me nor the authors of that article entitled “Medical Biology: A Perspective”. In the news release, the statement was made “Knowledge of these investigations led Dr. William B. Castle of Harvard to suggest to Dr. Linus Pauling of the California Institute of Technology that sickle cell hemoglobin might have an amino acid composition different from that of normal adult hemoglobin.” Apparently the text of Dr. Vallee’s article was innocently misinterpreted through the understandable technical ignorance of the lay author of the publicity release. Although this detail of the text of the release may never appear in the press, should some newspaper have printed it, I wanted to let you know that neither the authors of the article nor I were aware that such a misrepresentation of the facts had been made.

Last January 16, while Dr. Vallee was preparing a lecture in which he wished to refer to my connection with subsequent investigations of sickle cell hemoglobin, I wrote him a letter stating my recollection of the circumstances of our conversation as follows:

“What I do remember clearly was a conversation with Dr. Pauling on a railroad train while traveling from Denver to Chicago subsequent to this meeting. (? 1946) Knowing of Paulings work on protein structure, I pointed out to him the possible significance of the characteristic deformity of the red cells in sickle cell disease, associated, according to Sherman, with the appearance of birefringence. I suggested that I thought that this would be a matter of interest to him because to me the phenomenon of birefringence suggested the occurrence of molecular orientation in the reduced state of these cells.

“As in his Harvey lecture, Pauling has been very gracious on other occasions in referring to me at all because the essential observations indicating the presence of an abnormal hemoglobin with respect to its physical behavior on deoxygenation were clearly stated by Hahn and Gillespie in 1927. Sherman’s observation was made in 1940, and Ponder in 1948 had demonstrated that osmotically produced “ghosts” deprived of hemoglobin would not assume the sickle shape upon exposure to low

Dr. Linus Pauling -2- May 22, 1963

oxygen tension. Indeed, he proposed that the intracellular hemoglobin molecules, when deoxygenated, assumed a “para-crystalline” arrangement. The work of these authors is duly cited by Pauling in his lecture.”

I know that you are much more interested in the future of biology than in the past but I would be distressed if the garbled account in the news release should actually appear and come to your attention without this explanation.

With kind personal regards,

Sincerely yours,

W.B. Castle, M.D.

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