Chairing the Division After the War: Organizing the Peace

Linus Pauling, 1946

[Pauling as Administrator]

As the government’s demand for research and development projects began to wane following the end of the Second World War, the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology began a period of reorganization. One early change was a shift in policy for graduate studies wherein only those able to attend full time were admitted. The division also instituted a requirement that graduate students from the Biology division working under someone in Chemistry receive permission from their Biology adviser first.

But amidst these and other changes, one very important continuation remained: the division’s involvement with military research. One such activity that ultimately involved Linus Pauling was led by two division members from the Chemical Engineering group, B. H. Sage and Dean Lacey, who had assumed a post-war contract from the Bureau of Ordnance on improving double-base propellant processing. This classified work to develop “smokeless powder” was less pure chemistry and more straight up engineering. As such, the contract was in potential conflict with the division’s policy on accepting funding that restricted publication.

Noting this, Sage went to Pauling for his approval. And as the division chair, Pauling judged the research to be worthy of an exception, telling Sage, “I do not see how you can avoid doing work of this sort; it seems to me to be clearly your duty, in view of your experience.”


Typical of the administrator’s burden, Pauling swiftly turned his attention to mediating a dispute between Sage and J. Holmes Sturdivant over shared responsibilities at the Chemistry Shop. The problem came to Pauling’s attention in November 1946 when Sturdivant informed Pauling that the Chemical Engineering group had “contributed essentially nothing toward the maintenance of the Chemistry Shop facilities” despite spending 10% to 17% of their time using the shop. Sturdivant subsequently requested that Pauling require Chemical Engineering to contribute at least 5% of their time over the course of a year towards maintenance. To make up for past indiscretions, Sturdivant also suggested that the engineers allocate 100 hours to shop maintenance over the next month.

Sage, speaking on behalf of the Chemical Engineering group, expressed annoyance with Sturdivant’s requests, and claimed that the engineers had in fact done routine maintenance and housekeeping, while also taking “complete responsibility for the maintenance of the small so-called Chemical Engineering Shop.” (Pauling, apparently puzzled by Sage’s reference to a Chemical Engineering Shop, underlined this line of text with a question mark next to it.) Sage also pointed out that the extra amount of time that Sturdivant wanted the engineers to spend on maintenance would accrue to an additional 17% of their time spent in the shop. Sage concluded with a request that the group receive $50 a month more to help cover shop-related overhead costs paid to the division, something that they had not been asked to pay in the past.

In response, Sturdivant told Pauling and Sage that the increase in overhead charges had to do with changes made during the war as research shifted to other areas. Specifically, the Committee on Institute Shops had recommended that all campus shops charge overhead to the groups that used them. Sturdivant, seeking to appease Sage on some level, then recommended lowering the Chemical Engineering group’s overhead charge to $20 per month for the next 18 months. Pauling agreed that this was a reasonable compromise and the dispute was settled.

Anticipating future disputes of this sort, Pauling inquired with upper administration about the possibility of devoting new space on campus to chemical engineering. As it turned out, nothing major was to happen for another decade — not until 1956 did Caltech break ground for a new building dedicated to the division’s engineers.


Lee DuBridge, 1948

As a member of the Institute’s Executive Committee, Pauling was well-positioned to work with the incoming Lee A. DuBridge, the first person to officially hold the title of President of Caltech. Before starting in Pasadena, DuBridge had spent six years as the first director of the radiation laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And though he officially became Caltech’s president in the fall of 1946, he began working with Pauling before then to begin implementing his vision for the Institute.

DuBridge and Pauling shared a similar point of view on faculty pay: to recruit and retain the best, the Institute had to offer high salaries. With this idea in mind, they first worked together to hire John G. Kirkwood as Professor of Chemistry, meeting in Washington, D.C., (DuBridge hadn’t yet moved to California) in April 1946 to discuss the best way to attract him. At the end of their meeting, they decided that $10,000 per year would do it.

Once Pauling was back in Pasadena, he wrote to DuBridge that the Executive Committee thought the amount was too high, as only a “few people” – including Pauling – made that much at the Institute. DuBridge was disappointed by this news, writing that

My first reaction is to say a salary of this amount has got to come as a fairly common figure in the near future if we are to get and keep good men – and therefore lets go ahead in this case.

Thus emboldened, Pauling reached out to Kirkwood, who replied that he would need to think about the offer. DuBridge had not expected this response and was also a bit perturbed at Pauling, since he had meant for Pauling to merely inquire with Kirkwood about his potential interest at that salary level. In the end, Kirkwood accepted the position, but only remained at Caltech until 1951, leaving to take up the Sterling Professorship at Yale.


Membership on the Executive Committee also obligated Pauling to spend time filling positions outside of his own division. While at Cornell, John Kirkwood had worked closely with physicist Hans A. Bethe, whom Pauling had tried to persuade to come to Caltech to replace Robert Oppenheimer in 1946. The previous fall, Caltech had offered Oppenheimer $10,000 to return to Pasadena now that his war-time service at the Los Alamos Laboratory had concluded. Not long after, the Institute tried to sweeten the deal by offering him the chairmanship of the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Electrical Engineering.

These offers were not enough to convince Oppenheimer to stay, and he ended up as Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Bethe was likewise not convinced that Pasadena would make for a good fit and suggested that Pauling make an inquiry with Robert F. Christy, who had worked with Oppenheimer at Los Alamos and had been involved with the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago as well. Pauling heeded this advice and Christy went on to spend the rest of his career at Caltech.

Bringing in new faculty members and keeping the peace between current employees consistently occupied Pauling’s time as a division chair. The imperative to reorganize research objectives following the end of World War II only made those tasks more urgent and weighty.

Taking the Division Beyond the War

 

[Pauling as Administrator]

In the fall of 1944, Linus Pauling took some time to formally reflect on both the past and the future of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, which he had chaired for the past seven years. In doing so, Pauling acknowledged the role played by his predecessor, Arthur A. Noyes, in developing a robust and highly esteemed research staff in physical and inorganic chemistry.

Organic chemistry, which had evolved largely under Pauling’s leadership, was approaching a similar position and, Pauling thought, would continue to gain in prestige. In Pauling’s view, physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry had each arrived at an optimum point in their development and would not be in need of expansion anytime soon.

But Caltech’s greatest contributions to chemistry were located in Pauling’s own field of structural chemistry. Comparing Caltech with peers like London’s Royal Institution and Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, Pauling opined that

…the California Institute of Technology may well have made more contributions to the field than any other single laboratory in the world.

Maintaining and building upon the Institute’s stellar reputation following the end of the war would require increased financial support to make up for the eventual expiration of the Rockefeller Foundation grant that had propelled so much work since the late 1930s. In his report, Pauling did mention that the foundation was ready to fund “an intensive attack on the problem of the structure of proteins and related substances.” But in the meantime, Pauling suggested that Caltech increase its annual support for structural chemistry research from $5,000 to $7,500.

One area in obvious need of improvement was applied chemistry. Most notably, the division had been without a professor in applied chemistry since prior to the onset of the Second World War. Pauling made a goal of addressing this, expressing a desire to hire an instructor, expand facilities for graduate research, and tailor undergraduate and master’s degree programs in metallurgy.


As part of his larger vision, Pauling also revived his 1942 proposal that Caltech start a major new research program focusing on the fundamentals of medicine. Pauling saw the application of chemistry to physiological processes as a field that was coming into its own, and guessed that the discipline would continue to rapidly advance over the next handful of years. The research agenda that Pauling proposed centered around the structural chemistry of substances like drugs, hormones, enzymes, and poisons; investigations into their physiological properties; and explorations of their genetic and pharmacological applications. In putting forth these ideas, Pauling wrote,

I believe that it can be predicted safely that work along these lines will in a few years lead to great advances in the fields of physiology, bacteriology, immunology, and even medicine.

Pauling very much wanted Caltech to be an important player in this future, but felt that the Institute was far too understaffed to achieve this objective. As a corrective, he suggested they hire a bacteriologist, physiologist, enzyme chemist, and virologist ideally possessing backgrounds in biology, chemistry, and physics. As with the 1942 proposal, Pauling once more suggested that the Institute raise funds for a new building that would house these researchers, and that the group collaborate with local hospitals.

The war had demonstrated to Pauling that scientific research could be conducted efficiently if personnel were organized in a hierarchy, a style that had concerned A.A. Noyes back when Pauling was originally considered for the division chairmanship. Emboldened by the successes of the scientific war effort, Pauling expressed his desire to apply this approach to researching protein structures, envisioning a research team of about twenty. Absent such an intensive approach, he feared, the structures of most proteins would not be solved in his lifetime.


To strengthen his proposal, Pauling hinted that the Rockefeller Foundation might be inclined to fund such work, as they had already provided $433,000 to the division to support research in structural, organic, and immunochemistry over the previous twelve years, and had also set up a $1,000,000 organic chemistry endowment. And as 1944 neared its conclusion, Pauling felt ready to bring his postwar plan to the foundation.

Pauling’s first conversations about the proposal were with Frank Blair Hanson, who oversaw the foundation’s immunological funding. Pauling then went to Warren Weaver who directed natural science research and who had worked closely with Pauling for the duration of the foundation’s engagement with Caltech. Weaver thought Pauling’s ideas to be important but unrealistic, particularly as concerned the number of qualified researchers who would be available after the war.

While he largely agreed with this assessment, Pauling still pushed his case, drawing Weaver’s attention to a new technique for measuring the absorption of isotherms in water vapor that he could apply to the structure of proteins. Pauling wanted to pursue this technique and asked for six to eight years of funding at $25,000 to $40,000 a year. The foundation wasn’t ready to make this investment at the time.

Close to a year later, Pauling and George Beadle, the new head of the Division of Biology, approached the foundation once again, this time asking for a whopping $6,000,000 to cover fifteen to twenty years of work on the use of chemistry to investigate fundamental questions in biology. But the response from the foundation remained the same: Pauling and Beadle would have to wait.


In addition to keeping the money flowing in, Pauling also focused on taking care of his fellow chemistry faculty, making sure that their pay stayed commensurate with their accomplishments. Pauling’s ability to do so was enhanced in 1945, when he began a three-year term as a member of Caltech’s Executive Committee. Service on this committee provided Pauling with sway over the shape of his own division and the institution as a whole. In this capacity, Pauling pushed for salary increases for his colleagues in chemistry, finding a way to give raises to Verner Schomaker and Carl Niemann by readjusting spending from the Molecule Structure Fund and the Rockefeller grant. Pauling likewise worked with the committee to negotiate a salary increase for Don Yost, whose annual pay was boosted substantially from $5,000 to $8,000.

Pauling also had to deal with appointing and retaining the division’s staff. In the summer of 1945, the division extended assistant professorship appointments to Richard Dodson and Charles Coryell, but both turned down the offers down, Coryell going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dodson leaving two years later for Columbia University.

Having learned from this experience, Pauling went to the Executive Committee and implored that they act “without delay” to make sure that Cornelius Rhodes of the Cancer Memorial Hospital in New York – soon to be paying a visit to Pasadena – not “entice” Dan Campbell to head a laboratory group on the East Coast. Specifically, Pauling wanted Campbell to receive an assurance that his position at Caltech was permanent as he was central to Pauling’s plans for the division’s future, especially regarding the Rockefeller funding. Campbell ultimately did stay, securing a $3,000 grant from Wescar Investment Company within a year. Pauling moved to offer him a full professorship in 1950.

Occasionally, Pauling had to do the tough job of making decisions about which staff would receive external funding. One such instance came about in December 1945 when Joseph Barker, Chairman of the Executive Committee and Acting President of the Research Corporation in New York City, asked for Pauling’s opinion on proposals submitted by three different researchers within the division. Don Yost had requested funds to support work on nuclear chemistry and the chemistry of metals; E. R. Buchman was interested in thiamine; and James Bonner wished to explore flowering plant hormones.

Barker told Pauling that the corporation preferred to award only one grant to a specific institution and asked Pauling to provide direction on a worthy recipient. While he was initially hesitant to favor one of the three, Pauling ultimately leaned towards Yost, since biochemical work was already well-funded. Having done so, Pauling also put forth the notion that Barker might prefer Buchman, since he had already established a relationship with the Research Corporation. Pauling’s deflection left the final decision up to Barker, which may have been Pauling’s intention all along. As an administrator who was constantly on the lookout for ways to fund and support his colleagues, Pauling almost certainly would have preferred that grant monies go to all three.

Geraldine Richmond is the 2019 Linus Pauling Legacy Award Recipient

Dr. Geraldine (Geri) Richmond, a renowned professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon, is being honored as the 2019 winner of the Linus Pauling Legacy Award, sponsored by the Oregon State University Libraries and Press. Dr. Richmond is a Presidential Chair in Science at UO in addition to being a member of the Chemistry faculty.

As part of the celebration marking the award, Richmond will deliver a free public lecture on Wednesday, May 22nd at 7:00 p.m. at OSU’s Valley Library in the fourth floor Rotunda. The lecture’s title is “The Importance of Global Scientific Engagement.”

The Pauling Legacy Award recognizes outstanding achievement in a subject once of interest to Linus Pauling. Richmond is the tenth winner of the prestigious award; four past recipients have been Nobel Prize winners. Each awardee has been honored with a framed certificate, engraved medallion and $2,000 honorarium.


Richmond’s research using laser spectroscopy and computational methods focuses on understanding environmentally and technologically important processes that occur at liquid surfaces. In the words of Dr. Richard van Breemen, Director of the Linus Pauling Institute and member of the Pauling Legacy Award nominating committee, Richmond’s work “has applications in energy production, environmental remediation and atmospheric chemistry that can impact human health.”

Another member of the nominating committee, Horning Professor of the Humanities Emerita Dr. Mary Jo Nye, noted that Richmond’s “chemical research on molecular structure and atmospheric chemistry is award-winning, as is her role in teaching and encouraging women in the sciences, complemented by her dedicated professional service.”

Richmond herself recalled that

I was speechless – which is rare for me – when I got the call and was told that I had won the Linus Pauling Legacy Award. I kept saying, ‘Wait, can you say that again?’ Linus Pauling is really my Oregon role model, with his amazing contributions to both science and humanity. I am truly honored and look forward to coming up to Oregon State for the award ceremony and seeing his collection at the library.


Dr. Richmond receiving the 2013 National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Richmond has served in leadership roles on many international, national and state governing and advisory boards. She is currently the U.S. Science Envoy to the Lower Mekong River Countries, and is likewise serving as Secretary of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is recent past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is the incoming president of the Sigma Xi Scientific Honor Society. Richmond is also the founding director of COACh, a grass-roots organization formed in 1998 that has helped more than 20,000 women scientists and engineers to advance their careers worldwide.

Richmond will add the Pauling Legacy Award to a lengthy and impressive list of previous decorations. Among them are the 2018 Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the National Medal of Science (2013) – both awards previously bestowed upon Pauling as well. She has also received the Joel H. Hildebrand Award in the Theoretical and Experimental Studies of Liquids (2011, ACS), and the Speirs Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry (2004). Awards for her education, outreach and science capacity-building efforts include the ACS Charles L. Parsons Award for Outstanding Public Service (2013), the ACS Award for Encouraging Women in the Chemical Sciences (2005), and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (1997).

Chairing the Division During the War: Maintaining Security and Revising the Curriculum

Linus Pauling, 1942

[Pauling as Administrator]

As chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, Linus Pauling was tasked with focusing, administratively, on the big picture while also maintaining and protecting ongoing research. This was especially so with confidential work being conducted during the Second World War.

One early incident that required Pauling’s input came about near the end of Fall 1942 when Foster Strong, a physics instructor, observed an undergraduate student using a master key to enter unauthorized rooms in the Crellin Laboratory. Upon catching him, Strong broke the key while giving the student, according to Pauling’s subsequent report, a “severe lecture about the seriousness of the offense.” As it turned out, the lecture did not take.

The following February, Elizabeth Swingle, the division’s stockroom keeper, saw this same student using a key to enter the stockroom. The first time she caught him, the student claimed that he was only able to get in because Swingle had left the door open. When Swingle later walked in on the student – this time accompanied by others – in the stockroom after hours, Swingle went to Pauling. She described this second encounter in a formal report, noting that “a look of surprise and a flush spread over [the student’s] face when he saw me.”

When confronted by Pauling, the student originally said that he had copied another student’s key to obtain entry. Later he admitted that this was a lie, and that he had originally had two keys made. Being in possession of an unauthorized master key was, in Pauling’s judgement, a “serious offence” because of the “confidential nature of some of the work being done” at the labs as part of the war effort. Pauling directed that the student no longer work in the Crellin facility any more.

Just over a month later, Swingle found the Crellin stockroom unlocked on a Monday morning, despite having locked the door on her way out the previous Saturday. Upon inspection, she found that sixty liters of an anesthetic, absolute diethyl ether, and 150g of vanillin, an extract of vanilla, were missing. A few weeks later, Swingle found two keys left on a table by the stockroom; one would permit entry into the room.


At the next division council meeting, it was decided that this series of events was serious enough as to merit the hire of a security guard to keep an eye on both Gates and Crellin during nights and weekends. It was also decided that identification cards would be issued to those with clearance to access the building after hours. Master keys would be restricted to faculty members only, and the provision of additional master keys to others would be up to Pauling. Elizabeth Swingle, along with two other women, had their master key privileges revoked.

At the beginning of June, the Institute also came to a decision on a just punishment for the undergraduate whose activities had caused such concern. It was found that the student had violated Caltechs honor system and that he would be placed on disciplinary probation for the remainder of his time as an undergraduate. This meant that he could not hold elected office or work on campus.

Three days after the decision had been rendered, Swingle reported to Pauling that someone had left the stockroom a mess. “Some chemical had been spilled on my desk leaving the finish injured,” she wrote. In addition, “there was a yellow colored chemical on the floor, in the waste paper basket, and on two towels.” Upon further examination, Swingle determined that the yellow chemical was quinone, and subsequently found that 100 grams of the substance was missing from the stockroom’s inventory. Pauling asked around, inquiring if any research groups had been using quinone and if any lab workers may have removed it without filling out a charge slip. None of the colleagues with whom he inquired were using the chemical at the time.

By July the ID badge system had been put into place, restricting access to Gates and Crellin between 6:00 p.m. and 7:45 a.m. on weekdays, and between 1:00 p.m. Saturday and 7:45 a.m. Monday. A year passed without incident.

Then, in 1944, Biochemistry professor Arie Haagen-Smit saw a research assistant for the NDRC-Chem-13 project enter a laboratory in the Kerckhoff basement where confidential and secret war work was being carried out. Haagen-Smit confronted the researcher and asked how he got in. He replied that there were “a number of keys around which open practically all the doors on campus.” A friend who was a graduate student in mathematics had given him the key to see if there was any equipment in the restricted lab that he could use for his research in NDRC-Chem-13. In response, Pauling again directed that limitations be placed on master keys and the division encountered little trouble thereafter.


As World War II came to an end, the division recognized a pressing need to reassess its graduate offerings, which had been rapidly updated amidst the pressure to meet wartime demands. One area that had suffered as a result of this update was organic chemistry, a point that was emphasized to Pauling by his colleague Edwin Buchman. Noting that there was a lack of instruction and organization when it came to graduate training in organic chemistry, Buchman requested that Pauling form a committee to define policies around research and teaching in the division.

Pauling also worked beyond the division level to update graduate programs across the Institute through his committee assignments. A member and, on occasion, the acting chair of the Graduate Committee on Post-War Policies, Pauling also served on the Faculty Board and Curriculum Committee. During one meeting, Pauling became especially intrigued by physicist E.C. Watson’s idea that Caltech accelerate its graduate work through the implementation of new teaching methods. By doing so, Watson saw the potential for Caltech to repeat its successes from the 1920s, the decade during which they had initiated their current system, becoming an “excellent graduate school” frequently “copied by other technical schools” in the process. On a practical level, this would mean dropping applied courses for which there had been an urgent deman during the war, such as industrial design. Though expressed with the intention that they be applied across the Institute, Watson’s ideas lined up well with what Pauling had in mind for the division that he oversaw.


Another component of the graduate program requiring scrutiny was Caltech’s masters degree offerings. Differing from many other technical institutes, Caltech’s Master of Science degree was essentially a continuation of undergraduate work, with the degree awarded following the completion of a fifth year. To attract students to the program, Pauling proposed implementing a scholarship program similar to that offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which covered tuition and provided a stipend of between $700 to $1,000 for eight months of study. Much later, in the spring of 1953, Pauling suggested further expanding the program by lowering a barrier to entry. Pauling’s idea was that Caltech treat its undergraduate seniors as first year graduate students, thus allowing them to focus more on research and to gain entry to laboratory space.

As part of their fifth year, master’s degree-seeking students at Caltech were required to take one course in the humanities: an introductory survey of English literature, history, philosophy, or economics. During a December 1944 meeting of the Graduate Committee on Post-War Policies in which he was Acting Chair, Pauling pointed out that the addition of a humanities requirement had been made in 1928 as a result of faculty action and was “not a part of the general policies of the Institute as expressed by the Trustees.” Pauling’s comments came on the heels of a previous committee recommendation that the Board of Trustees “abolish” the humanities requirement for the master’s degree.

The humanities requirement was brought up again two weeks later, but no decision could be reached. At the meeting that followed, Pauling put forth an alternative idea — that the Institute consider adding courses in the history and philosophy of science. The committee agreed enough with this sentiment to recommend that the Division of Humanities look into hiring someone in the field. A few years, Caltech brought aboard Rodman W. Paul, whose research interests were in the histories of mining and agriculture. Student enthusiasm for coursework of this kind was such that Caltech eventually created an entire program in the history and philosophy of science.

Chairing the Division During the War: A Balance of Interests


Members of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering seated together at a picnic, 1941. Pauling, the division chair, is at far right.

[Pauling as Administrator]

In the early 1940s, a $300,000 biochemistry grant provided by the Rockefeller Foundation set the tone for research in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, but it was not the only source of funds that the foundation was providing. In addition to the large biochemistry grant, the Rockefeller board approved smaller supplementary awards to support a collection of promising immunological projects being pursued by Caltech faculty. This secondary line of funding gradually made a significant impact.

In 1940, geneticist A. H. Sturtevant received the first of the immunology grants, a three-year, $36,000 award. A year later, Linus Pauling was provided with his own three-year, $33,000 grant to support a separate track of immunological research being housed in the chemistry division. Prior to the award being finalized, Rockefeller administrator Warren Weaver suggested that Pauling ask for an additional $20,000 for the second year alone, a request that was quickly approved. As time passed and research in immunochemistry at Caltech grew, several undergraduate and graduate students came to Pasadena, supported by the Rockefeller funds. Well aware of its growing strength, Pauling pushed for immunology to be institutionalized with its own administrative apparatus and advocated that Dan Campbell be placed in charge.

Three years later, as Sturtevant’s immunology grant expired, he and Pauling decided to collaborate on a joint proposal that would combine the work being pursued by the biology and chemistry divisions at Caltech. This new grant would provide an $18,000 supplement to the $11,000 that remained from the last year of Pauling’s immunology grant. The work was also receiving material support from the military, and the Office of Scientific Research and Development expressed its hopes that the project would continue after the war. The Rockefeller Foundation approved the joint request, and Pauling and Sturtevant began their collaboration.


The division’s advancements in immunology also piqued the interest of the private sector, as it increasingly became clear that this proprietary research could eventually be commercialized. One company, Lederle Laboratories, offered to collaborate on the research by providing large amounts of antisera and toxins needed as research inputs. Pauling argued against this collaboration, feeling that the work had not yet progressed to the level of “commercial exploitation.”

Frank Blair Hanson, who was overseeing the grant for the Rockefeller Foundation, recommended against the partnership for a very different reason. It was Hanson’s view that medical applications were imminent and that precautions against any commercial applications needed to be taken. In expressing this point of view, Hanson was protecting the foundation’s proprietary interest in the work and insuring that only Rockefeller scientists would be able to draw upon its data for future applications.

A few years later, in the fall of 1944, Pauling took steps to clarify the division’s position on taking funds from – and working with – large companies, a conversation that would only intensify following the war. Pauling’s clarification arose as an action item following a meeting where division faculty had expressed concerns that industrial interests were being considered separately from basic questions in chemistry. Communicating on their behalf, Pauling noted that the faculty overwhelmingly preferred that no strings be attached to grants offered by large private interests.


Towards the end of 1941, one such private interest, Shell Development Company, offered Pauling a position as its Director of Research. Pauling visited Shell in San Francisco to tour his potential new lab, but never seriously considered accepting the job. Instead, as he had done in the past, Pauling used the offer as leverage with his current employer.

In November, Pauling wrote to J. F. M. Taylor at Shell, indicating that he was waiting for a counteroffer from the Institute that would convince him to stay. Ten days later, Pauling wrote to Taylor once more, saying this time that he would decline Shell’s proposal. In explaining his reasoning, Pauling noted that he likely would have accepted the offer were he earlier in his career, but that now “I have now gone too deeply into fundamental science, including the biological applications of chemistry, to tear myself away.” It appears that the promise of a pay increase may have also helped Pauling with his decision, as Caltech’s Board of Trustees agreed to raise his annual salary from $9,000 to $10,500 a little over a month later.


With Pauling once again firmly in place as division head, he began to focus more intently on maintaining a balance between the Rockefeller-funded biochemical and immunological work, and the new obligations ushered in by the onset of war. In January 1942, Weaver checked in with Pauling, specifically to see if those new responsibilities were interfering with the biochemical work. Hanson also wrote, asking the same question with regards to the immunological program. Pauling replied that, despite losing two graduate students to military service, the activities funded by the grants had remained largely unaffected. There was, however, the potential that the division might lose more student assistants in the near future.

As summer approached, the division appeared to be mostly hitting its targets. In a May progress update, Pauling reported that the biochemical grant had been able to complete many of its projected goals for the year despite the war. That said, personnel turnover had been larger than normal, especially in structural and physical chemistry, since those were areas where a lot of war work was being done. Other projects, however, had not been interrupted at all

The immunological work faced a new challenge when the War Production Board began limiting the division’s supplies. Pauling contacted Frank Blair Hanson to communicate this turn of events, and put forth the idea that they solicit a $1 contract from the Committee on Medical Research so that they could continue to have access to supplies. Pauling further explained that the work being carried out under the grant had become significant to the war, including a line of inquiry on the synthesis of quinine. Hanson agreed that it was a good idea to pursue the contract for the purposes outlined.

Even with all of the distractions brought about by World War II, the Rockefeller-funded research at Caltech moved along briskly; so much so that it began to outpace its budget. The grant was originally set at $300,000 to be spread over at least five years, but for each of the first three years the chemistry and biology divisions had requested $70,000. When that request was repeated for the fourth year, Weaver warned Pauling that there would not be enough money left over to support the final year of the grant.

Nonetheless, the Institute’s Board of Trustees approved an even larger request for year four – $75,000 – in part because Pauling provided assurances that the two divisions would not spend the complete budget due to an increased emphasis on war work. Pauling also told Weaver that the divisions would have no problems addressing his concerns.


Buoyed by stable funding and a string of research successes, Pauling was inspired to formulate a broad-ranging and farsighted biochemical research program in the division that he led. In 1942, Pauling sent a draft of this vision to the Board of Trustees. Noting that no program of the sort existed on the West Coast, Pauling expressed his belief that Caltech could collaborate with the University of Southern California Medical School, the Huntington Memorial Hospital, the Good Hope Hospital and others to launch a “cooperative scientific attack” that drew on existing research in physics, chemistry, and biology.

Pauling went so far as to put forth his idea for a small institute to start with, one that would be staffed by two researchers working on hypertension in existing facilities at Caltech at a cost of $15,000 a year. Eventually, Pauling hoped, this institute would grow in stature to the point where it would require its own building on the corner of campus. While the board did not approve Pauling’s plan, he continued to persist, advocating for it as a component of Caltech’s postwar plan. In 1952, the idea came to realization at last.


The massive amount of attention being given to the application of chemical methods to biological subjects threatened to overshadow the chemical engineering branch of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. But as with biochemical medical research, there was a lack of fundamental chemical engineering research being conducted on the West Coast. Recognizing this gap, faculty member B. H. Sage decided to stand up on behalf of his chemical engineering colleagues.

In the fall of 1944, Sage wrote to Pauling, advocating for future lines of research to support chemical engineering. In his letter, Sage reported that the chemical engineering faculty were shifting away from research
on unit operations as the basic steps in the chemical engineering process, a topic that had dominated the previous fifteen years. Instead, chemical engineering faculty were now interested in analyzing unit operations themselves.

Pauling listened to what Sage had to say and, the following year, began pushing for new courses in fundamentals of chemical engineering. But Sage’s new line of research would also require time and money, and resources were stretched in other directions.

One source of funds was the Texas Company, now known as Texaco. Sage had helped to maintain a contract with the company that provided funding for investigations on the molecular weight of hydrocarbons in methane and other natural gases. This $20,000 annual award was up for renewal in June 1946, and communications with Texaco led Sage to understand that annual funding could be boosted to as much as $100,000 per year. The range of techniques the project would incorporate was also seen as an attractive foundation for exploring basic research in chemical engineering.

However, Texaco’s patent requirements limited both publication opportunities as well as Sage’s time, and the division ultimately decided to recommend to the Board of Trustees that they not approve the contract unless Texaco allow the Caltech researchers’ findings to be disseminated. The division’s recommendation was also motivated by a secondary fear that the Texaco money could cause an imbalance in chemical engineering research within the division, privileging Texaco’s interests at the expense of the unit operations analyses that Sage wanted to pursue. Ultimately the division argued that, absent the Texaco contract, chemical engineering at Caltech might not be as well funded, but its researchers could follow their own interests more closely, and that this was a sacrifice worth making.

Chairing the Division During the War: Staffing


Pauling’s NDRC authorization papers, 1944

[Pauling as Administrator]

The entry of the United States into the Second World War brought a shift in focus for the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. As its chair, Linus Pauling was tasked with staying on top of continual staff changes, a student population that had shifted away from pure science in favor of engineering, and an “abnormally low budget” of $2,500 for supplies.

The war also prompted a revamp of Pauling’s own research agenda towards war-time imperatives like explosives, propellants, and medicine; a shift that was reflected across the division. Some of Pauling’s government contracts also required him to coordinate with researchers across the country. One such individual was Villiers W. Meloche at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with whom Pauling worked to determine the age and stability of diphenylamine compounds used in explosives. At one point, Meloche sent a researcher from his group to Pasadena to review some of their work in person, as their collaboration relied upon confidential details that could not be shared through the mail.


One of Pauling’s main administrative priorities during this time was to track and inform the draft status of all of his division’s researchers, be they graduate students or post-docs. Guidance to this effect was provided by W.V. Houston, who was Acting Dean of the Graduate School at Caltech. Houston informed all of the Institute’s division chairs that they would need to inquire into the draft status of each graduate assistant and teaching fellow working in their area, and that they should ask for deferments “for everybody who is to be depended upon for next year’s teaching.” For Pauling, this meant assessing the contributions of each potential draftee.

To do so, Pauling began by creating a form letter for those eligible for deferment. This letter was meant to influence the perspective of local draft boards by outlining the reasons why researchers in the division should be given deferred status. In addition to the boilerplate contained in each letter, Pauling provided his own tailored thoughts on the work that each individual was conducting, once again for the benefit of the draft board’s review.

Most of Pauling’s comments strongly recommended deferment and argued that the individual in question was already working in support of national defense through their chemical research. But in at least one particular case, Pauling’s argument hinged more on potential. This specific student, Werner Baumgarten, was nearing the end of his Ph.D. in organic chemistry, an area where workers were in short supply. If he was deferred, Pauling told the draft board that Baumgarten would likely stay on at Caltech after graduating and recommended that he be given deferment for a “short period” to see “whether or not his services in scientific work are to be important to the national defense.”

As he compiled his comments for a growing number of students, Pauling leaned heavily on the idea that “chemistry is one of the fields vital not only to the national interest but also to the national defense.” He often used this line to close his letters, including one written for Andrew Alm Benson, whom Pauling also described as “easily one of the more able of the men” who would likely receive his Ph.D. within a year. Six months later, Pauling requested an extension for Benson’s deferment to assure that he could continue teaching, as others were being diverted more and more to research in support of the war. Benson would go on to become a leading plant biochemist, spending his career at the Scripps Oceanography Marine Biology Research Division at the University of California, San Diego.

While Pauling did his best to provide support to the researchers working in his division, it is important to note that he was not simply acting as a rubber stamp in his evaluation of those eligible for the draft. In the case of one master’s degree-seeking student, Pauling judged the individual’s work to be “satisfactory” and projected that he would “probably be a competent chemist.” But unlike most of the other letters, Pauling made no explicit call for deferment. Nonetheless, this student remained at Caltech throughout the war years and later built a career working to combat air pollution in southern California.


Besides making sure that those working in the division remained there, Pauling also needed to bring in new employees. As chair, Pauling received many inquiries concerning possible appointments within the division. These inquiries were not always directly addressed to Pauling, but to other faculty who then passed them along. Pauling also commonly sought input from other faculty concerning aspiring applicants who might potentially work in their research area.

Some of the researchers that were brought on board were former graduate students. Since many of these new hires were a bit rusty on matters related to current chemical research, Pauling arranged for them to attend weekly course lectures in organic chemistry led by Laszlo Zechmeister and others. Pauling requested that the Caltech Executive Council not charge these new hires for attending these lectures, since there was no need from them to earn credit as a result of their attendance.

One especially notable applicant was Margaret Sinay. In a February 1944 letter written to Pauling, Sinay noted that her husband had recently been transferred to Los Angeles for work, and that she too was looking for a position in the area. Sinay described herself as an “analytical chemist with about 15 years experience in medical research and routine biochemistry” who had been a senior chemist at the Vick Chemical Company’s vitamin research laboratory. Pauling replied that the division might have an opening for a “war research job, in which analytical training would be useful,” and asked that Sinay come in for an interview once she and her husband had finished their move.

What became of Sinay is unknown, but it is noteworthy that Pauling expressed an interest in bringing her aboard. While there were no formal policies in place at Caltech forbidding the hiring of women into technical positions, they were still not allowed to take courses at the Institute. World War II made something of a dent in these guidelines as Caltech began allowing women to attend no-credit night courses related to war work. None of these course were in chemistry, but the division began to receive a growing number of inquiries from women expressing a desire to study there. To each of these requests, Pauling was forced to reply that it was against Institute policy to admit women at any level, except for those involved in war work.

Towards the end of the war, in October 1944, the Graduate Committee on Post-War Policies at Caltech discussed the possibility of admitting women as advanced degree candidates. These discussions ended up going nowhere. The possibility was brought up anew in 1948, and again it was set aside. Clearly, while the war ushered in many changes to the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, it did not change everything.

Remembering Ken Hedberg: Part 5, A Long and Distinguished Career

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[This is the final post in our series celebrating the life of Dr. Kenneth Hedberg (1920-2019).]

Ken Hedberg participated actively in many professional organizations and received numerous fellowships and awards throughout his distinguished career. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, a fellow of the American Physical Society – for which he served terms as secretary-treasurer and vice-chairman – a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Chemical Physics.

Included in a long roster of decorations were the OSU Sigma Xi Research Award (1974), the OSU Alumni Distinguished Professor Award (1975), the International Dr. Barbara Mez-Starck Prize (2005) given for outstanding contributions in the field of experimental structural chemistry, and the OSU College of Science Lifetime Achievement in Science Award (2016).

His connections to Norway also resulted on numerous honoraries. In 1982 he was named a Norwegian Marshall Plan Fellow and he served as the Odd Hassel Memorial Lecturer at the University of Oslo in 1984. He was elected a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences in 1978, a member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Science and Letters in 1996, and in 1992 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Trondheim, Norway. He also enjoyed visiting professorships at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of Reading, England.


Hedberg1960-03

Scientifically, Hedberg is probably best known for being the first investigator to use gas-phase electron diffraction to determine the gas-phase structures of the fullerenes, C60, C70, and C60F48. But in addition to his contributions to research in physical chemistry and his expertise in the field of electron diffraction, Hedberg’s lasting impact can be measured, at least in part, by the genuine care and admiration that he engendered in his colleagues.

David Shoemaker, Ken’s former Caltech office-mate and later his department chair, nominated Hedberg for the OSU Alumni Distinguished Professor Award that he received in 1975. In his nomination letter, Shoemaker wrote that “Dr. Hedberg is a distinguished and dedicated teacher, among the finest in the department” and “certainly one of the outstanding researchers in this University and would be considered outstanding in any University I know of (and I was on the MIT faculty for 19 years).”

Shoemaker then described Hedberg’s scientific impact

Dr. Hedberg’s research specialty is determination of molecular structure by gas phase electron diffraction. In this field he has risen to the position of world leader, eclipsing all others in my judgement (and I am close to the field, being an x-ray diffractionist). This field had a heyday a quarter century ago, and many people said that there would be nothing left to work on in a short time. However, largely due to the ingenuity of Professor Hedberg, the field is still (or rather again) going strong.

Along with his own letter, Shoemaker also forwarded support notices penned by a collection of Hedberg’s former students. One wrote that “With all Ken has done for me it would be hard for me to name a person I think more highly of,” and recalled that “His enthusiasm in participating in experimental activities along with the students and a primary interest in developing a person as a scientist and member of society, not just a well-qualified technician, are traits of Ken’s that made his guidance most useful to me.”

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Another student wrote that “He was the most influential person in my undergraduate chemistry education” and “was able to communicate to the students according to the level of their background…Professor Hedberg was extremely fair and expected fairness and honesty from his students.” The student then added that “Although he had research assistants and post-doctoral fellows, he took the time himself to show and explain the experimental procedures to this undergraduate student. He cultivated independent and rational thinking throughout the progress of the research….He is a man of integrity, leadership and honesty. He is one of the best teachers I have ever had and one of the best persons I have known.”

Many years later, in 2010, another former student wrote to the OSU alumni magazine to comment on a profile that had been published in a recent issue. The student wrote

I was thrilled to read that Ken Hedberg is still with us and still carrying out his very important research. I took his chemistry class as an engineering freshman 50 years ago. In one lab session we had a nice conversation about cars…I remember the exchange after all these years because he was such a nice guy and so good to us poor confused undergraduates, always cracking gentle jokes during lecture and helping us in every way he could…OSU is blessed to have him, and I am blessed to have known him.


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A page from Ken Hedberg’s “visiting researcher scrapbook,” a sixty-three page volume that contains photos and inscriptions from all of the researchers who visited Corvallis to conduct work in the Hedberg electron diffraction laboratory.

A few years ago, Ken and Lise Hedberg entered into a retained life estate agreement with OSU, in which they effectively transferred ownership of their home to the university at the ends of their lives. Once sold, the proceeds will be used to create two new endowed scholarships and to add to the Ken and Lise Hedberg Endowed Student Fund for chemistry doctoral students. Giving back to OSU was important to Ken for many reasons, and the imperative to support undergraduate learning especially so because of Hedberg’s own student experience during the Depression. “As I look back over a very long career,” he noted, “I see that the good fortune I’ve enjoyed was kicked-started by scholarship aid; without it I don’t think any of this would have happened.”

Ken Hedberg’s career was defined by scientific excellence, but even more so by his collaborative spirit and his relationship with his wife Lise, who was his scientific partner as well as his life partner from the day they met until his death this year. Science, for Hedberg, was a social endeavor as well as an academic one, and his lab was a hotspot for visiting researchers from around the world as well as a safe space for generations of OSU chemistry students. With his passing the university has lost a true icon, but his impact will be felt for many years to come.