For a short period of time in the late 1920s, Linus Pauling and J. Robert Oppenheimer were colleagues at the California Institute of Technology. While the tenor of their relationship was, in the end, rather tumultuous, the two did share many common interests.
One such interest was a passion for minerals. Both Pauling and Oppenheimer developed a fondness for collecting and classifying rocks at an early age, and as a token of his esteem during their time together at Caltech, Oppenheimer gave to Pauling a large portion of his own collection. The gift comprised several hundred specimens, once occupying twenty cabinet drawers in Pauling’s office. (For more on Oppenheimer’s fascination with minerals, see page six of this piece by Dr. Andrew A. Sicree – PDF link)
Over the years Pauling gave away a large portion of Oppenheimer’s gift – several items went to Pauling’s son-in-law Barclay Kamb, a renowned geologist, while others were given to Linus Pauling, Jr. Oppenheimer’s original identifications for many of the specimens were likewise lost over the course of time.
A few of the minerals made their way to the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, images of which are presented in the gallery below. We have done our best to classify each item, though our departmental background in mineralogy is admittedly thin. That noted, if any of our readers should have an idea as to the proper or more precise identity of any of the stones, please drop us a note in the Comments section and we’ll update our records, and this post.
[All images by Anna Wilsey]