Carlsson’s official note written in the course of an argument about the proper way to describe others’ work in a thesis to the Faculty of Medicine of the Karolinska Institute of 3 May 1965.
For English translation see below. See also Bengt Falck – The Lund Histochemist… Research by Richard Burack under the heading 1965: ”Fuxe earns his doctorate”.
To the Medical Faculty at the Karolinska Institute
The representative of histology, Associate Professor Lars Gyllensten has asked me to provide the Faculty with my opinion on certain parts of an official letter of 24 April 1965 from Associate Professor Bengt Falck to the faculty. The description Fuxe presents on pages 7-8 of his thesis with respect to the development of the histochemical method is perfectly correct. In March 1961, when Hillarp was working in this department together with G. Thieme, they discovered and worked out the optimal conditions for the formation of fluorescent products of catechol- and indoleamines after exposing them to formaldehyde vapour in a dried protein film. The time was then ripe to apply the method to tissues. Since the department lacked the necessary histological equipment, Hillarp contacted his colleague, then Assistant Professor Falck in the department of histology at Lund, and they agreed to carry out the experiments jointly. On Hillarp’s proposal they first used air-dried stretch-preparations of rat mesentery and iris. Thanks to Hillarp and Thieme’s carefully performed model experiments, Hillarp and Falck were able by the end of September or beginning of October 1961, after less than a day’s work in Lund to demonstrate fluorescent structures in such stretch preparations having exactly the same appearance as Hillarp’s autonomic ground plexus. To apply the method on other tissues than these thin stretched preparations, a special procedure had to be developed in which tissues were freeze-dried, exposed to formaldehyde and then embedded and sectioned. This task turned out to be far from simple, calling for great technical skill and inventiveness. An essential part of the task was carried out by Falck in a meritorious way. Probably it was not unimportant that Hillarp took part by telephone and numerous visits to the department in Lund as the work progressed. Hillarp was now very concerned that Falck have full benefit from his achievement. The risk that a younger coworker’s contribution to the work of a team may be depreciated is considerable, as is well known, and there were strong reasons to believe that Falck would not be an exception. It is against this background that the following facts must be taken into account. 1st. Falck and his collaborator Torp are co-authors of the publication reporting the above-mentioned model experiments; 2nd. The above-mentioned experiments with these stretch – preparations were not published separately – reference to these “previous experiments (Falck and Hillarp, to be published)” together with a summary of a portion of the results is nonetheless described in Falck, Acta physiol. scand. 56, Suppl. 197, 1962 p.9; 3rd. Falck and Torp, and Falck, respectively, published the use of the method on peripheral tissues by themselves, including demonstration, among other things, of nerve terminals. (Yet, as a symbol of the intimate cooperation of the department of histology in Lund with that of pharmacology in Gothenburg, it is stated that they were issued from both Lund and Gothenburg. The paper on monoamines in the brain was considered a mutual project for Falck, Hillarp and me, the undersigned)
Arrangements of this kind can be disputed from various aspects but are probably inevitable in real life. That Hillarp here, as in so many other similar situations, showed a unique generosity is obvious. The present arrangement can, however, taking into consideration the above stated circumstances, not be considered unreasonable. It should be borne in mind that Falck has not only made an excellent contribution in the preparation of the methodology but has also been responsible for the greater part of the practical carrying through of the mutual projects, for example concerning monoamines the central nervous system.
Gothenburg May 3, 1965.
Arvid Carlsson, professor