Notes to Poem:
"Memories of Miriam Scheraga"

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: On February 5, 2020, I was composing "Number 43" for my niece Elisa's 43rd birthday (2-27-2020), & just finished #75 "At Age 43". There were 17 notable people with their accomplishments at 43 listed in Jeremy Baker's Tolstoy's Bicycle (1982). Beethoven conducting his 7th Symphony (1813) at age 43 was not mentioned, so I included it with Prof. Scheraga's 9 publications (1964) at age 43. The photo of Scheraga from Cornell's Chemistry Department was no longer posted, so went to Google Images. When I typed in Harold A. Scheraga, found out that his wife Miriam had died on January 5 at age 98. This news saddened me greatly, and this poem was written with fond memories of her.

Commentary on Poem: "Memories of Miriam Scheraga"

Confucius said "Honor your parents & teachers".
Miriam was my Cornell Professor Scheraga's
wife for 76 years, so it is great sadness
I learned of her passing a month ago.

China 741
(issued 8-27-1947)

Miriam K. Scheraga
Confucius (551 BC-479 BC) is considered a great sage in China. His Lun Yu (Analects)
is composed of a collection of sayings compiled by his disciples. It is recognized as the
Four Books selected by Chu Hsi (1130-1200), and used for civil service examinations.
Beside his "Golden Rule" , Confucius' core teaching is to honor & respect one's parents
and teachers. While doing my doctoral research at Cornell (1963-1970), Harold and
Miriam Scheraga were like parents to me. That's why I am so saddened in learning
of her passing a month ago. I've written this poem on my memories of Miriam.
Photo Sources: China 741 Confucius ( (issued 8-27-1947);
Miriam K. Scheraga (

Scheraga didn't have a TV at home
till their three children left for college,
then he bought a TV and invited the lab

of 40 scientists to his home (11-3-1964) to watch
the 1964 Presidential Elections in the basement;
Miriam tells me to come upstairs to bring down
the coffee, and I fainted going up the stairs.

Scheraga's home at
212 Homestead Terrace, Ithaca

1964 Presidential Election
LBJ defeats Barry Goldwater
When Prof. Scheraga invited the lab researchers to his home at 212 Homestead Terrace,
we were surprised that he had no TV at home. He told us it's important for their children
Judith, Deborah, and Daniel to focus more on their studies than waste time watching TV.
However, when his kids all left for college, he bought a TV and invited us to his home
(11-3-1084) to watch the 1964 Presidential Election. LBJ defeated Barry Goldwater,
winning 61.1% popular vote (485-52 Electoral College). My memory that day was
fainting on the stairs when Miriam asked me to come upstairs to bring down the coffee.
I had two cups of white wine on an empty stomach, and was feeling dizzy. After losing
consciousness on the staircase, postdoc Sandy Ostroy told me to keep my head down
so blood could go to my brain. Miriam offered me to sleep on the bed, but I just
relaxed on their reclining couch. She was so caring about my well-being.
Photos: 212 Homestead Terrace, Ithaca (; 1964 Presidential Election (

Scheraga was going to Israel for six months
and wanted to see my doctorate thesis (1970)
but a huge snow storm dumped 40 inches of snow,
his car was buried and couldn't come to the lab.

Miriam phoned and wondered if I had food
and drink with me to weather the blizzard—
I had a tuna sandwich & juice, will trudge
home when they bulldozed away the snow.

Snow storm covered Cornell campus
Scheraga was going to the Weizman Institute, Israel for six months
(January-June 1970), and wished to see the progress made on my
doctorate thesis. Since I worked in the lab at night (11 pm to 7 am),
I was totally oblivious of the huge snow storm raging outdoors.
Miriam phoned telling me that Harold's car is buried in snow
and won't be able to meet me in the lab. She was concerned if
I had enough food & drink in the mean time. When they cleared
away the snow, I trudged home for a good morning sleep & rest.
Photo Sources: Cornell covered by snow (;

Miriam shouted "Peter" when they drove
by my apartment at 11 Walnut Ave, they
brought daughter Deborah to Brandeis
and she wanted me to phone her.

Was too busy doing post-doc research
experiments with Professor Fasman,
and had no chance to contact her.

11 Walnut Ave, Cambridge, MA
where I lived (1970-1977) while
researching at Brandeis in Fasman's lab.

Alexander Rich
MIT Biophysicist
lived on Walnut Ave

Ephraim Katchalski
Israel 2114
(issued 4-12-2011)

Polyamino Acids, Polypeptides and Proteins (1962)
After Cornell, went to work with Prof. Gerald D. Fasman at Brandeis University (1970-1977).
Lived at 11 Walnut Ave, Cambridge, MA, and walked a block on Upland Road to the Boston
& Maine Railway for the 15-minutes ride to Brandeis in Waltham. When Miriam shouted at me
on Upland Road while Professor Scheraga was driving by my apartment, I didn't know that after
dropping off their daughter Deborah at Brandeis, he was visiting his friend Alex Rich of MIT,
who I learned later lived on my block. While hitchhiking on Massachusetts Ave, I was surprised
to be picked up by Alex Rich. He asked me where I was going. When I said "11 Walnut Ave",
he said "We live on the same block." Just noticed that Prof. Scheraga's publication list shows his
6th paper was with J.T. Edsall & A. Rich (April 1951). While experiementing in calorimetry on
poly-L-lysine in Scheraga's Cornell lab (1970), he brought over Ephraim Katchalski for a chat.
I told him that when I was doing my senior research at Columbia with Jon Applequist, my bible
was Polyamino Acids, Polypeptides and Proteins where Katchalski had written several chapters.
Katchalski told me they've manufactured poly-L-lysine shirts in Israel. While walking home on
Upland Road (1975), the police won't let me through as the whole block is cordoned off. I tell
them that I live at 11 Walnut Ave, and had a letter with that address. The Israeli Secret Police
told me that Israel's President Ephraim Katchalski is visiting. I told them that Katchalski knows
me as Scheraga's grad student. He must be visiting Alex Rich. The police finally let me through.
They had to be extra careful as Ephraim's brother Aharon Katzir was among 26 killed and 80
injured in the Lod Airport massacre in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists with Japanese Red Army.
Photo Sources: 11 Walnut Ave (; Alexander Rich (youtube); Ephraim Katzir (;
Polyamino Acid book (

At Scheraga's 65th Birthday Symposium
(10-18-1986), they took two group photos—
one on all the attendees, and the other just
Scheraga's grad students & post-docs; Miriam
seeing me in the second row said "Why are you

up there" and dragged me to the front row
next to her, thanking me for the poem written
honoring Scheraga's protein research. Just found
this 1986 photo— I'm in the center of Baker Lab!

Attendees at Prof. Harold A. Scheraga's
65th Birthday Symposium (10-18-1986)

Scheraga's Grad Students & Postdocs
at 65th Birthday Symposium (10-18-1986)

Closeup of Group Photo:
Scheraga, Miriam, & Peter
Scheraga's 65th Birthday Symposium was held on October 18-20, 1986. Before the Cornell Symposium,
presented my first non-scientific paper at 20th Anniversary of CEMERS (October 13-17 1986) at SUNY
Binghamton, on the symbolism of Giotto's Adoration of the Magi (1306) with the Star of Bethelehem as
Halley's Comet of 1301. Just found a manila envelope from C. Hadley Smith, 543 Elm St., Ithaca, NY,
postmarked 1987. Sandwiched between two heavy cardboards were two photographs of Prof. Scheraga's
65th Birthday Celebration gathering. I've scanned both photos at 96 dpi (950x776 pixels) as shown above.
The first photo shows me in the second row to the left of Prof. Fasman. With Prof. Scheraga in front of us,
there is a triangular formation of my two scientific research mentors at Brandeis and Cornell. The second
photo shows Scheraga's former & current grad students & postdocs. Since Miriam dragged me to the front
row next to her, I'm now in the center of Baker Lab. What an unexpected honor! I've made a closeup of
Harold Scheraga, Miriam, and me together, reminding me of the wonderful times at Cornell in Ithaca.
Photo Sources: Attendees at Scheraga's 65th Birthday Symposium (; Scheraga's Grad Students & Potdocs
(; Scheraga, Miriam, & Peter (

At Tompkins County Book Sale (1968),
Miriam bought Garcia Lorca's Poems
for 25¢ as I recommended this book
with a beautiful sunburst on the cover.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Garcia Lorca's Poems
with sunburst on cover
While browsing at a Tompkins County Library Book Sale (1968), I ran across Miriam Scheraga,
wife of my thesis professor Harold A. Scheraga. She had Lorca's paperback in her hand, with
the same sunburst cover that I had bought. Miriam asked me, "Peter, do you know anything
about Lorca? Is this a good buy?" I told her that Lorca was killed at a young age by Franco's
militia at the start of the Spanish Civil War. But he wrote beautiful poetry like the "Green"
poem in the book. It was the last day of the Book Sale— Hardcovers for $1. Paperbacks
for 25¢. I told Miriam "For a quarter, you can't go wrong." She took my advice and
bought the book. I've told this story in Pinsky's Anthology on our favorite poets.
Photo Sources: Federico Garcia Lorca (; Garcia Lorca's Poems (

Miriam's warmth, kindness, & generosity
is like bright sunshine I'll always cherish,
and while I'm saddened by her passing,
these memories will be alive in my heart.

Miriam Scheraga

Miriam has a nice sunny smile in the group photo of Professor Scheraga's grad students
and postdocs. So I cropped her full length image at 600 dpi (400x1296 pixels). For
closeup image (350x430 pixels), made a duotone using Photoshop. I will always
treasure and cherish her in my heart. Photo Sources: Miriam Scheraga (;
Full length photo of Miriam (;

— Peter Y. Chou
    Mountain View, 2-6-2020

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