It's in the Blood! A Documentary History of Linus Pauling, Hemoglobin and Sickle Cell Anemia All Documents and Media  
Home | Search | Narrative | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day

All Documents and Media

Letter from Linus Pauling to William Castle. May 28, 1963.
Pauling writes to relay his memories of the evolution of his thinking on the nature of sickle cell anemia. Among other details, Pauling notes that he first had the idea that sickle cell anemia might be a molecular disease after hearing Castle speak at a meeting of the Medical Advisory Committee.


28 May 1963

W.B. Castle, M.D.

Thorndike Memorial Laboratory

Harvard Medical School – Department of Medicine

Boston City Hospital

818 Harrison Avenue

Boston 18, Massachusetts

Dear Bill:

I have not as yet seen any statement in the press along the lines mentioned in your letter of 22 May to me.

I have a vivid memory of the evening when I first had the idea about abnormal hemoglobin molecules in relation to sickle-cell anemia. My memory is that you began discussing the disease after dinner, when the members of the Medical Advisory Committee were holding meetings in New York. I am sure that I have the date of the meeting in my diary, but I do not have the diary here. After you had discussed your interest in this disease, I then told you and the other members of the committee, who were, I think, all present, about the suggestion that your statements had made to me, to the effect that the disease might be really a disease of the hemoglobin molecule. The discussion was essentially as described by me in my Harvey Lecture, delivered April 29, 1954. One fact that I did not mention in my Harvey Lecture is that I asked you if you saw any reason why I should not check up on this idea, when I got back to Pasadena, by comparing the properties of hemoglobin from normal individuals and from sickle-cell anemia patients, and you said that you didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t go ahead.

I do not remember the conversation on the train between Denver and Chicago. Perhaps it is better for me to say that I do not remember our discussing the matter on that train, but I do remember discussing the matter of Sherman’s work with you, after the original discussion, in the New York Hotel.

One reason why I think that original discussion was in New York, and not in Denver, is that my wife was not present at the dinner where we held the original discussion and at which, also, Alton Ochsner discussed some of his experiences as a surgeon, including an operation in

W.B. Castle, M.D.

28 May 1963

Page 2

which he cut an artery and had some trouble in sewing up – perhaps it was the aorta. My wife was with me in Denver, but was not with me at the time of the New York meeting of the Medical Research Committee.

With best regards,

Linus Pauling:hpg

Return to Document Page

Home | Search | Narrative | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day