Coombs, Robert Royston Amos (Robin), 1975
Scope and Contents
The Correspondence series consists of incoming and outgoing handwritten and typed letters, carbons, postcards, faxes, and telegrams generated during Sydney Brenner's career. The bulk of this series covers the late 1940s to the 2000s. Correspondents include over 30 Nobel laureates, as well as biochemists, geneticists, students, publishers, and others. Highlights of the collection include the correspondence from Francis Crick, with whom Brenner shared an office for 20 years. Topics covered include Brenner's initial interest in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, and research into overlapping triplet codes.
The Correspondence Series is divided into 5 subseries.
- 1. Personal Correspondence (1946-2010)
- 2. Institutional Correspondence (1956-2011)
- 3. Candidates, Applicants, and References (1958-2007)
- 4. University of Cambridge Faxes (1993-1995)
- 5. "Lunatic" Letters (1954-2013)
Personal Correspondence (SB/1/1) is arranged alphabetically by author. This sub-series includes both professional and non-professional correspondence, and dates from his time as a student in South Africa to his retirement. Numerous scientific luminaries communicated with Brenner regarding experiments and meetings, including (but not limited to) Max Delbrück, Renato Dulbecco, Salvador Luria, André Lwoff, Sol Spiegelman, Leo Szilard, and James D. Watson.
Institutional Correspondence (SB/1/2) consists of material which was written or received on behalf of an organization, or generated by Dr. Brenner in his capacity as an administrator, consultant, or advisor. It is arranged alphabetically by author. Included in this subseries are publishers, meeting and lecture organizers, professional organizations, universities, laboratories, and various corporations. Brenner's role in the biotechnology industry is well represented in this subseries, especially as a consult for Dupont and Rothschild Asset Management. His relationship with scientific institutions in Asia, especially Japan and Singapore, are also well documented here. The subseries includes a significant amount of material generated as an administrator at the Medical Research Council (MRC), including files on Celltech. Correspondence regarding Brenner's column in Current Biology, including some handwritten manuscripts, are included in this subseries. Important subjects, especially Recombinant DNA and mapping the Human Genome, are also touched upon in the files.
The Candidates, Applicants, and References subseries (SB/1/3) contains correspondence involving the assessment, or the recommendation of various individuals for various positions, fellowships, grants or awards. Brenner was often asked his opinion of candidates, or to recommend someone who could make the proper assessments. The majority of candidates in the files involve staff and visitors of the Medical Reseach Council (MRC); these files often include administrative material related to fellowships and grants. MRC files from the 1960s and 1970s often include correspondence to and from Francis Crick. Brenner's nominations for the Royal Society are also included within the files. The subseries is generally arranged alphabetically by candidate, although some material is filed by the institution seeking recommendations. The series is generally restricted, please see Archivist for details.
The University of Cambridge Faxes subseries (SB/1/4) contains faxes that were either sent or recieved while Brenner was serving as a research scientist at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, and cover the period of 1993-1995. The subseries has been subdivided into two groups: Faxes Received and Faxes Sent. Each group is arranged chronologically. The correspondence is topically very similiar to the Institutional Correspondence subseries (SB/1/3), and primarily concerns scientific meetings and biotechnology firms. Some companies and organizations included in the files are Glaxo, Hamamstsu Photonics, Japan Tobacco, HUGO, Technology Foresight Programme, and the Scripps Research Institute.
The "Lunatic" Letters subseries (SB/1/5) is a small set of unsolicited material that had been saved by Brenner, but kept seperate from his general correspondence file. It is arranged alphabetically by author.
Manuscripts, photographs, and reprints have been removed and placed in their appropriate series. Photocopies of the front page, and separation sheets have been filed where they were originally found.
Item of Note: There is a bound volume of personal letters (of praise and memories) presented to Brenner at the Fellow Symposium on Molecular and Cellular Biology (1983). Writers include: Abelson, Adams, Altman, Anderson, Beckwith, Blow, Cashmore, Chang, Clark, Cory, Crick, Dahlberg, Gefter, Hartley, Hooper, Jeppesen, Katz, Laudy, Lubin, Mathews, McClain, Moffat, Rigby, Robertson, Rudland, Sambrook, Sigler, Smith, Steitz and Wassarman.
Language of Materials
Virtual access to most material from this collection is availabe freely online, via the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Digital Archives Repository.
Physical access is given only by appointment, 8:00a.m. to 4:45p.m., Monday through Friday. Certain restrictions to material apply to both virtual and physical collections. Contact archivist for details.
From the Sub-Series: 20 boxes (8 linear feet)
Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository
Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA