Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Altenburg mss., 1946-1960, are the papers of Edgar Altenburg, 1888-1967, geneticist. They consist of correspondence with scientists, scientific papers, drawings, and printed matter.

Career: born on January 11, 1888, in Jersey City, New Jersey; 1906 graduated from Morris High School, New York; 1911 A.B., 1912 A.M., 1916 Ph.D. Columbia University; 1912- 1916 assistant Columbia University; 1916-1920 instructor Rice Institute; 1920-1947 assistant professor, 1947-1958 associate professor, 1958-1967 professor; demonstrated with Muller that spontaneous mutation rates could be increased by heat, 1919- 1921; in 1920 they co-authored a paper showing that the variability of the character "truncate wing," which had been thought to be a "non-Mendelian" trait, was due to the presence of modifier genes; study on the frequency of translocations produced by X-rays in Drosophila published in 1930; in 1930-1934 discovered ultraviolet mutagenesis; with the assistance of students, discovered alpha particle and neutron mutagenesis in 1934; in 1946 proposed a theory that most cancers arise de novo as mutations in particles in the cytoplasm which have their own genetic constitution apart from that of the cell itself; Altenburg and one of Muller's co-workers independently discovered in 1952 that photoreactivating light could reverse ultraviolet mutagenesis; died on August 27, 1967. For biographical information see Genetics, LX (1968), S20-21.

Correspondence with Royal Alexander Brink and Barbara McClintock concerns maize genetics, 1952-1960; with Graham Phillips DuShane relates to the publication of criticism in Science on Brink's virus interrelation of his RR case in maize, 1959; with August Ernest Kehr is on the immunity to virus X in Irish potatoes, 1959; and with Edward Harold Coe discusses the B locus in maize, 1959. A letter from Hermann Joseph Muller refers to Brink's research, 1959.

Among the articles in the collection are Brink's "Paramutation and chromosome organization," Kehr's "Resistance of potato to infection by mechanically introduced virus X," McClintock's "Mutable genes," Altenburg's "Thomas Hunt Morgan, Democrat," and Altenburg's criticism entitled "Virus versus gene change in Brink's RR case in maize." There is also a mimeographed copy of Altenburg's "The Science of Evolution."

Collection size: 72 items

NOTE: Access to this collection requires advance notice. Please contact the Curator of Manuscripts for additional information.

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.