Project Adrift: The Second Edition Fizzles Out

[Part 4 of 4]

The cordial disagreements over the shape of the second edition of Introduction to Quantum Mechanics began in August 1955 when Martin Karplus sent to Linus Pauling his first revision of the book. Many of the revisions that Karplus was making did not fall in line with those that Pauling and E. Bright Wilson, Jr. had in mind. Pauling and Wilson expressed their concerns to Karplus, Pauling writing that “I think that the revision that you propose is more extensive than we want” and Wilson suggesting that “I think in general I stand part way between the two of you with respect to the extent of revision necessary.”

Clearly there existed significant gaps in agreement; gaps which steadily grew into crevasses.

In October 1956, Pauling wrote to McGraw-Hill requesting that the previous agreement concerning royalties for the second edition be revised to that of an equal division among the three co-authors, as “circumstances have changed since 1935.” This was an early sign of what would soon become an apparent lack of investment in the second edition on Pauling’s part.

In November Karplus met with McGraw-Hill and agreed on a new deadline of Fall 1957 for publication in 1958. Nearly a year later, in October 1957, the deadline was extended again to the summer of 1958. In a September 1957 letter, Karplus gave some insight into the reasons for the delays:

I am very sorry that I have not been able to accomplish more on the revision. Other obligations as well as some personal problems, have prevented me from devoting as much time as I should have liked to give to the work.

As time passed, the disagreements between the co-authors and the lack of organization were becoming more and more apparent. In a letter to Karplus, Pauling’s frustration with the situation was evident

I wish that you would send me a copy of some of your material on the revision of Introduction to Quantum Mechanics…I trust that you are not changing the book completely.

In early March 1959, Karplus wrote to Pauling and offered a glimmer of hope that the end of the revisions was near, suggesting that “in terms of the present rate of progress, it is perhaps not completely unrealistic to hope that the new edition will appear in the spring of 1960.”

Yet the publication delay continued.  When Pauling was asked to compose a recommendation for Karplus for a position opening at Tufts University in October of 1959, Pauling shed further insight into the issues plaguing the revision.

The work that Karplus has been doing in revising the book seems to me to be of the highest grade. My suggestions in the main have dealt with a simplification of what he has written. I have not found any errors, not even in judgment, except that I am afraid that he tends to be interested in the more complex aspects of the subject….I may point out that he was, I think, somewhat disturbed in his research and his revision of Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by personal difficulties.

Clearly reasons other than lack of cooperation between co-authors were causing the delays.

Two years later, in 1961, Pauling wrote to a Dr. T. Katsurai in Tokyo, who had inquired about the publication date of the new edition. In this reply, Pauling confessed of his own contributions to the slowness of the project.

Professor Wilson and I have got to the stage in life when we have many duties and less energy than formerly. Professor Karplus is hard at work, but the job is a big one, and I surmise that it will still be a year or more before it is finished.

Later that year, Pauling received a letter from a McGraw-Hill editor informing him that “Professor Karplus assured me three weeks ago that he and Professor Wilson are actively revising, and that they anticipate completion in the summer of 1962.” And yet, 1962 passed without publication.

In 1963 Pauling cut himself off from the project, in large part because of the growing press of work, especially peace work, that now defined his every waking moment.  In a letter to Karplus informing him of his decision, Pauling wrote

I feel that I should not be a co-author with you and Bright. I have decided that my many activities, combined I think, with some lack of interest in the details of modern quantum mechanics, will prevent me from making any contribution to the new book.

Wilson responded curtly to Pauling’s withdrawal, insisting that it would reflect poorly on Karplus as well as the second edition.

I was very disturbed to receive the copy of your letter of May 22 to Martin Karplus. I don’t really see how you can do this to him. After all, it was you who chose him and persuaded him to undertake the job of revising our book, a job which has turned out to be enormously more burdensome and worrying than he could possibly have realized, in good part because of his own success in research. I fear that he (and the public) will infer that you have no confidence in him and prefer the old edition even though you haven’t examined the new.

Pauling responded to his colleagues apologetically, explaining that his request to withdraw was not based on a lack of confidence in the project, but on his own inability to participate.

I[f] you and Bright are willing that I be a co-author, I would be happy to be. My conscience has been bothering me because I have not contributed anything significant to the revision. I do not like to accept anything that I do not deserve, and I have felt doubtful that I deserve to be a co-author of the new edition.

Nine years later, in 1972, Karplus sent Pauling a letter informing him that the book was near completion. But by 1974, nearly twenty years after Pauling and Wilson made their decision to publish a second edition, McGraw-Hill still had not received a manuscript. At this time, Pauling sent a final letter to Wilson and Karplus officially withdrawing as co-author.  The second edition never made it to print.

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