Correspondence between Pontecorvo and Sir Hector Hetherington about new accommodation for the University of Glasgow Genetics Department

Scope and Content

These are photocopies of the original correspondence. It is possible that Pontecorvo made these copies for his own personal records and left the originals in the department, however these have never been found.

Administrative / Biographical History

These letters give a valuable insight into Pontecorvo's determination to establish a Department of Genetics at the University of Glasgow which would provide adequate training and research facilities for students and academics and further his research into the genetics of microorganisms. These letters show that in 1947 he was initially looking for temporary accommodation in an inused laboratory in the Materia Medica Department until the University would be in a position to build a specialised building for Genetics. At this stage Principal Hetherington explained that these accommodation problems were the result of the"enormous increase of students in the Medical Department and the complete impossibility of building". Discussions over suitable accommodation continued until 1955 where plans for a new Virology building (housing the Bacteriology and Genetics Departments) materialised.

Behind these dicussions lie Pontecorvo's desire to research, and lead the development of, the genetics of microorganisms. In one of the letters he explains to the Prinicpal how he mentioned when he was first appointed to the post that Glasgow could "get in first in this field," but only with adequate facilities, and support and backing from the University management team. He also mentions how he turned down Readerships in other Scottish and International universities (all of which were offering higher salaries) because of his commitment to staying at Glasgow. He ends one letter to the Principal with, "I should not mention all this if it were not for stressing how glad I am to be at Glasgow University and that I value this more than economic advantages. And this for two reasons: one is that I found hospitality here when I needed it. The other is that I hope, if the University backs me, to be able to build up here an active centre of research in the genetics of microorganisms". These letters show that Pontecorvo had clear aims and ambitions for his career at Glasgow. It seems that these discussion also paved the way for the Principal's decision to appoint Pontecorvo to the first Chair of Genetics at the University in 1955.


Kept in the original order. Some files are in chornological order and others are in reverse chronological order.