The NLM "Profiles in Science" website for Joshua Lederberg notes that Joshua Lederberg "invented" replica plating. While this is "true" technically, it is very misleading, in that it makes it appear as if only one person was involved. It also ignores the relevant history.
Exactly what was Joshua Lederberg's contribution? First, examine the omitted full citation, in the following subsection.
Lederberg, J., Lederberg, E. M., March 1952, "Replica plating and indirect selection of bacterial mutants", Journal of Bacteriology 63(3): 399-406
Is there a reason for not providing a citation? Do you still think that only one person invented replica plating? Is there an attempt to deceive?
In the article written by Joshua Lederberg and edited by J. F. Crow and W. F. Dove, cited below, one can find a detailed description of replica plating. It might be argued as to which of Esther M. Lederberg or Joshua Lederberg first conceived of replica plating, but it is clear that the idea of massive replication had been conceived before either of the Lederbergs devised replica plating. (E. Tatum had taught J. Lederberg to imprint colonies using sterilized toothpicks circa 1946; Visconti had used paper at Cold Spring Harbor in the late 1940s; L. Szilard and A. Novick had used the prongs of a wire brush). (See citation highlighted in yellow on p. 395.)
If the idea for replica plating wasn't Joshua Lederberg's, then what remains is how to actually implement what became known as replica plating. The implementation of replica plating requires a researcher with real expertise in experimentation, something Esther M. Lederberg was well known for (it was also well known that Joshua Lederberg lacked this ability). The ability to figure out how to implement replica plating and actually doing so was done by Esther M. Lederberg, and this was duly noted by several researchers in the lab, as documented below. That Joshua Lederberg was not particularly adept with actual experiments has also been independently documented by none other than Joshua Lederberg himself. This is also documented below.
Furthermore, documentation exists which clearly establishes that Joshua Lederberg did not have the kind of personality that would lend itself to talking with clerks in cloth stores (as he implies). The only evidence that we have that Joshua Lederberg did this, consists solely of his own statement; there are no recorded observations of this by anyone else. Documentation also exists on this website to the effect that, from a psychological point of view, Joshua Lederberg was an extremely arrogant and unpleasant person with senior research scientists. (Examine the entries for Barbara McClintock and Arthur Kornberg at http://www.esthermlederberg.com/ColleaguesIndex.html.) When Joshua Lederberg claims that he personally went to visit fabric stores to get cloth and advice from clerks (that he looked down upon), it is simply beyond belief that this could ever take place. (See citation highlighted in aqua, page 396.) Nobody EVER observed Joshua Lederberg going to clothing stores to find the proper cloth to be used in replica plating. The only evidence is the statement by Joshua Lederberg that he did this.
Click here to see "Perspectives: Replica Plating and Indirect Selection of Bacterial Mutants: Isolation of Preadaptive Mutants in Bacteria by Sib Selection", by J. Lederberg [J. F. Crow and W. F. Dove, Eds.], Genetics, March 1989, 121, 395-399
That Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg was considered to be a genius at experimental work, has been amply documented (see comments by Stanley Falkow, Eugene Nester and Allan Campbell, below). That Joshua Lederberg was not a gifted experimentalist has been noted by several researchers in Genetics. Indeed, even Joshua Lederberg himself has written this. For example, in the 1998 University of Wisconsin Oral History Interview at Rockefeller University, on page 25, paragraph 35, Joshua Lederberg notes that the gifted experimentalist Bruce Stocker immediately observed what Joshua Lederberg had overlooked:
"JL was looking at some of those plates in his lab when Bruce Stocker dropped in. The very first day Stocker arrived, he noticed some things on JL's plates that JL had overlooked."
The first successful use of replica plating using velveteen was done by Esther Lederberg.
The method of replica plating using velveteen developed by Esther Lederberg, was found to be extremely useful. Hundreds of research papers have been written by scientific investigators (including Joshua Lederberg) who have used Esther Lederberg's implementation of replica plating. Thus many scientific researchers have effectively collaborated in making replica plating a very valuable tool, one that continues to be used. This confirms what is most often the case: that scientific research is a collaborative process, not a "single-handed" effort or (just as false) even an "almost single-handed" effort, as claimed by the NLM website for Joshua Lederberg.