Starting in the early 1960's, it appears as though Joshua Lederberg became
progressively engaged in areas not directly related to microbiology-based
genetics. Barbara Bachmann noticed Joshua Lederberg not even being aware
of research taking place in his own laboratory! (For details, click
Bachmann, Barbara > Wisconsin Strain Lineage Reconstructions
Click entry number 48 (58-161F+ strains p3.38-2nd). See footnote§ for details.).
During this same time period and beyond (1961 - 1987), Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg continued an active research career, collaborating with Julius Adler, Enrico Calef, Charles Yanofsky, M. Laurance Morse, Dennis Kopecko, Richard Novick, George Jacoby, Bruce Holloway, Herman Kalckar, Mike Yarmolinsky, various Japanese researchers, and others. In scientific correspondence directed towards her (usually in response to one of her letters) through 1966, there is evidence of greetings addressed to Joshua (as a colleague might greet any other colleague's spouse). At times, there is no reference to Joshua at all, and there is no evidence of participation by Joshua in any of the scientific research referred to in these letters. (To view the scientific correspondence between Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg and Enrico Calef, go to http://www.estherlederberg.com/EImages/Archive/ArchiveIndex.html and click Calef, Enrico. See especially, the entries of October 11, 1961, December 26, 1961 and June 8, 1963.)
Was Joshua Lederberg still actively doing research into the genetics of
microorganisms, or was he perhaps too busy with administrative duties?
"I went into your [Esther Lederberg's] lab and found that you were not in and Joshua was busy in the committee of outer space problems." (See page 1 of the letter from Kiyoshi Kurahashi to Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg dated June 26, 1961, at:
What can account for such observations? The following is the definitive
answer, though it is not entirely true.
Bill Hayes said, "I met Joshua on two subsequent occasions, after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize with George Beadle and E. L. Tatum in 1958 and had moved to Stanford University. During an evening at his Stanford home he told me that the Prize had confronted him with a choice, either to continue in active research or to use his prestige to influence the progress of science in broader and more administrative ways, and he thought he would take the latter step but without losing touch with general research." See:
"A Viewpoint of Aspects of a History of Genetics: an Autobiography", 1985 (pp. 16-26)
(This document is also found at the NLM "Profiles in Science" website for Joshua Lederberg. Search for item bbgbow at http://profiles.NLM.NIH.gov/BB/.)
One can only speculate why Joshua Lederberg chose to withdraw from active "bench research" to engage in administrative duties. Perhaps this was due to the fact that genetics increasingly moved away from microbiology and instead, into "molecular genetics", an area that Joshua Lederberg did not have much experience. A Nobel Prize winner, used to much adulation and being referred to as "the genius", may have feared the possibility of projected embarrassment of public failure: better to simply retire from research?
Indeed, at this time Joshua Lederberg's research seemed to be less focused on bacterial genetics (or any area of science) per se, and increasingly focused upon speculations centered upon "serving mankind" in areas such as sociology and political science. One might be prompted to ask, "In what way is Joshua Lederberg qualified to deal with such subjects?" Joshua Lederberg responds (U. Wisconsin Oral History interview, 1998 p. 52, paragraph 330. (This document is also found at the NLM "Profiles in Science website for Joshua Lederberg. Search for item bbbdhf at http://profiles.NLM.NIH.gov/BB/.)
Examples of some of the articles authored by Joshua Lederberg at this time included:
The NLM site for Joshua Lederberg has claimed that "... Joshua Lederberg almost single-handedly reshaped the field of bacterial genetics." While this is indisputably false (even ridiculous), very few bacterial geneticists – perhaps none, other than Joshua Lederberg – wrote scientific papers of this calibre, in many cases without any supporting experimental evidence and absolutely no educational qualifications.
As quoted above by Bill Hayes, Joshua Lederberg withdrew from active research (in the sense of no longer being actively engaged in "laboratory bench research"), took place circa 1962-1963 (ie: four years after being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1958). As he grew increasingly distant in time and responsibilities from "bench science", Joshua Lederberg began to be less precise in his representation of his own research, increasingly blurring the research contributions of others and claiming those results as his own research. In effect, he began to appropriate the research of others, including the misappropriation of correspondence. (See Joshua Lederberg's September 17, 1970 response to Esther M. Lederberg's request that he return her correspondence, as well as correspondence with other researchers). For documentary evidence of the progressive revision of the history of science in interviews Joshua Lederberg gave, click here .
For some relevant references to Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg's scientific
correspondence during this time period, examine
and scroll through the correspondence between Esther Lederberg and the different researchers.
|Lederberg, Esther M.||Morse, Larry||Sneath, P. H. A.|
|Reconstructed p. 4.1||Wisc. gal 7 p. 3.18||Wisc. Sneath p. 3.35|
|Wisc. gal 8 p. 3.19||Wisc. gal2, gal4 (Morse) p. 3.12|
|Wisc. 58-161 p.3.2||Wisc. gal2 (Morse) p. 3.13|
|Wisc. EML p. 3.9||Wisc. gal2 (Morse) p. 3.14|
|Wisc. 58-161F+ p.3.38-2nd||Wisc. Morse 550 B8 p.3.36|
† Esther Lederberg told her second husband that at this time, in a very rare telephone conversation with Joshua Lederberg (by then her former husband), she had asked if [Joshua] missed doing research. Joshua replied that "...[he] was heavily engaged in administrative duties, but that indeed he did miss doing research."