Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg
Obituary Encomium: Elaboration by Stan Falkow July 26, 2010

BAF845 Black Granite Stanford Memorial lighter

Joshua and Esther Lederberg established their own group and worked on bacterial genetics. Studying with Edward Tatum, they discovered sex, or genetic exchange in bacteria, which won him the Nobel Prize shortly after he arrived at Stanford. The process they developed became a way to transfer genetic information between bacteria.   Len Herzenberg

Esther Lederberg developed a method of replica plating using velveteen attached to a piston ring. The rings are pressed onto bacterial colonies and then stamped onto a series of plates. She advanced many of the early lab procedures and also discovered lambda phage, which became a widely used tool in microbial genetics.   Stanley Falkow

Elaboration by Stanley Falkow (personal communication to Matthew Simon, 7/26/2010)

"My objective view is that Esther and Josh worked as a team for many years. Josh, as I said at a symposium at the National Academy of Sciences in 2008, was not in my view a gifted experimentalist. Esther was. Josh had a lot of ideas but the ideas had to be proved by experiments. Esther and Norton Zinder supplied most of the actual experiments and in a number of cases their experimental observations led to their own ideas and extension of the facts and their own discoveries. The distinction between bacterial mating and a fertility factor is quite real and I agree with Herzernberg's statement you cite. As an aside, at the same National Academy Symposium which was dedicated to Josh's memory by the organizers, several speakers as well as Stanley Cohen and me pointed out Esther's contributions to the field."

The memorial to Esther Lederberg above points out some of Esther's major accomplishments. However, other major accomplishments have been omitted, including the discovery and naming of the Fertility Factor "F", Esther's extensive research of galactosemia using lambda mutants, Esther's research of maltophilia , and research on specialized transduction with M. Laurance Morse.


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