The Architecture of Molecules

arch-mol

[Part 2 of 2]

By the end of the 1950s, Roger Hayward had retired from his professional work as an architect at the same time that his career as an illustrator was reaching its peak. And with this came a new measure of security: having worked chiefly as a freelancer in the past, Hayward signed a contract in the early 1960s that helped to solidify his position as a technical artist.

The contract that Hayward signed was with W.H. Freeman & Company, a San Francisco-based publishing house that rose out of relative obscurity primarily by publishing Linus Pauling’s hugely popular textbook, General Chemistry. First released commercially in 1948 (with illustrations by Roger Hayward), General Chemistry went through two more stateside editions, the last appearing in 1970.

Such was the pedagogical import of General Chemistry that it was translated into at least eleven languages, including Gujarati, Hebrew, Swedish and Romanian. Indeed, for several years Pauling made more money off of royalties from his textbook than he did from his Caltech salary. The impact of the book was similarly lucrative for the publishing house and its success cemented a long and close connection between the Freeman firm and Pauling.

The Double Molecules of Acetic Acid. Pastel drawing by Roger Hayward.  As with all of the pastels used as illustrations with this blog post, the Acetic Acid pastel shown here was not the final version published in "The Architecture of Molecules."

The Double Molecules of Acetic Acid. Pastel drawing by Roger Hayward. As with all of the pastels used as illustrations with this blog post, the Acetic Acid pastel shown here was not the final version published in “The Architecture of Molecules.”

For many years W.H. Freeman & Co. had also collaborated with Scientific American, publishing a selection of the magazine’s articles as offprints. Roger Hayward often found himself in the middle of this collaboration as he frequently illustrated publications for both companies.

The partnership between the two organizations proved so fruitful that, in 1964, they decided to merge, the hope being that W.H. Freeman might grow into the nation’s leading publisher of scientific texts. The joining of these two companies that he knew so well was a positive turn of events for Hayward, in part because it led to the publication of what would become his most acclaimed work, The Architecture of Molecules. A beautiful and innovative book co-authored with Linus Pauling, The Architecture of Molecules ultimately sold over 15,000 copies and featured some of Hayward’s best-known scientific illustrations.


The structure of Diamond.

The Structure of Diamond.

In his papers, Hayward’s first mention of the book appears in a letter written in March 1964 to his long-time friend and colleague John Strong, then living in Baltimore, Maryland.  In it, Hayward mentions in passing

I have just signed up to illustrate a Molecular Architecture book with Linus. The Freeman & Co. are to publish and all the figures are to be in color. I expect something like 75 figures some of which I have already done.

The idea behind the new book was to use illustrations to attract audiences from all backgrounds to an informative work on structural chemistry. The volume also represented one of W.H. Freeman’s first attempts to step away from strictly academic subjects in favor of publishing a scientific work marketed to a non-academic demographic.

Though not a technical monograph, The Architecture of Molecules was scientifically exacting in its own way. The book features Hayward’s colorful pastel conceptualizations of molecules and basic chemical bonds, and presents them side-by-side with Pauling’s concise but informative explanations of what the reader is looking at. From the first, the publication was very much a joint Hayward-Pauling project and Pauling, as with his publisher, saw the book as a tool to broaden the public’s understanding of chemistry in “an atomic age.”

The Ferrocene Molecule.

The Ferrocene Molecule.

It stood to reason then that work on the book was divided, with each author showing off some of their best qualities in their respective contributions. Hayward, of course, made it his duty to illustrate molecules with the utmost geometric and proportional accuracy. Likewise, Pauling provided pithy descriptions of the molecules and bonds being depicted, and did so in the inimitable style that characterized so much of his writing.  Witness, for example, Pauling’s discussion of Left-Handed and Right-Handed Molecules of Alanine:

There are two kinds of alanine molecules, which differ in the arrangement of the four groups around the central carbon atom. These molecules are mirror images of one another. The molecules of one kind are called D-alanine (D for Latin dextro, right), and those of the other kind L-alanine (L for Latin laevo, left). Only L-alanine occurs in living organisms as part of the structure of protein molecules.

Other amino acids, with the exception of glycine, also may exist both as D molecules and as L molecules, and in every case it is the L molecule that is involved in the protein molecules of living organisms. Some of the D-amino acids cannot serve as nutrients, and may be harmful to life.

In Through the Looking Glass Alice said, ‘Perhaps looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink.’ When this book was written, in 1871, nobody knew that protein molecules are built of the left-handed amino acids; but Alice was justified in raising the question. The answer is that looking-glass milk is not good to drink.


Folding the Polypeptide Chain.

Folding the Polypeptide Chain.

“My major asset in my work,” Hayward once wrote,” is an interest in and skill in three-dimensional thinking. This is coupled with a great interest in how things are put together both as an arrangement in space and in the physical sense.” In this sense, The Architecture of Molecules nicely summarizes Hayward’s true passions.

And in Pauling, Hayward was teamed with a more than capable second set of eyes. Most notably, Pauling’s familiarity with the time period’s cutting edge research enabled him to make suggestions for updates to some of the illustrations that Hayward already had in hand. His urgings also resulted in the inclusion of crystal structures as a more significant part of the book than was originally envisioned.

At various points throughout its 120 pages, The Architecture of Molecules also stresses the importance of understanding how the basic principles of chemistry are part of every-day life. Structures like the heme molecule and the alpha helix are therefore presented as exciting examples of newly discovered molecular structures that play a central role in the lives of all beings.


The Tetragonal Boron Crystal.

The Tetragonal Boron Crystal.

After hitting the market late in 1964, The Architecture of Molecules received generally positive reviews, though some critics took pains to point out that the book represented “Pauling’s view of the universe at the molecular level.” At the time, knowledge of the structure of atoms and molecules remained mostly based in theory – microscopes of the era still could not see on the molecular level and x-ray diffraction remained a technique that required years of practice to master – and Pauling’s ideas on chemical bonds, while hugely influential, were not universally accepted.

The increased use of x-ray diffraction within the discipline, however, further pressed the need for a compilation of illustrated molecules to be used as a tool for teaching chemistry. Pauling was also a firm believer that students would learn better if they understood the physical characteristics of chemical compounds. Based as they were in the latest findings, the illustrations featured in Pauling and Hayward’s book represented a contemporary vision of molecular structure.

The Architecture of Molecules clearly fit a niche and it sold relatively well – over 12,000 copies purchased in the U.S. and another 3,500 overseas.  Part of the book’s foreign gross came by way of two translations; a Japanese version appeared in 1967 and a German edition was released two years later.

Today The Architecture of Molecules certainly stands as Roger Hayward’s highest profile publication, and arguably his most important. Hayward was a huge talent, remarkable in his ability to combine a desire for scientific development with a strong artistic aesthetic. Never formally trained as a scientist, Hayward’s work as an illustrator and as a colleague of some of the top researchers of his time earned for him a permanent place in the history of science communication and education.

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Illustrating Science

Pastel drawing of the molecular structure of molybdenumdichloride. By Roger Hayward, 1964.

Pastel drawing of the molecular structure of molybdenumdichloride. By Roger Hayward, 1964.

[Ed Note: Of the thirteen books that Linus Pauling authored or edited, The Architecture of Molecules stands out as being very different. A slender volume of just over 100 pages, the 1964 publication consists almost entirely of beautiful and intricate pastel representations of molecular structures drawn by Roger Hayward and contextualized with short scientific descriptions authored by Pauling.  This is post 1 of 2 exploring the back story behind this unique book as well as its publication.]

It is not unusual to find pictures of Linus Pauling surrounded by three-dimensional molecular models or with drawings of molecules and their bonds covering his work space. Pauling believed that understanding the physical properties of molecules was crucial to understanding their chemical interactions. This guiding principle made Pauling an influential figure in his use of models and illustrations to explain the properties of substances.

Pauling’s 1947 textbook, General Chemistry, became a best-seller in part because because it presented novel new methods for teaching chemistry at the undergraduate level. The book incorporated quantum physics, atomic theory and real-world examples in explaining basic chemical principles, and a key feature of the text was that it used illustrations like nobody else had done before. Prior to the publication of General Chemistry, the properties of atoms and molecular bonding were described and taught in such a way that students were required to think abstractly about chemical reactions without a full understanding of the physical interactions that caused these reactions. General Chemistry changed all that.

From his high school years through his post-graduate studies, Pauling had experienced numerous approaches to teaching chemistry. Pauling, of course, had been asked to teach introductory chemistry while himself an undergraduate at Oregon Agricultural College, and it was during a similar stint teaching freshman as a graduate student at Caltech that Pauling began to devise a plan for his revolutionary textbook. He was certain that in this new project, illustrations and diagrams would serve an essential role in engaging students and helping them to understand the fundamentals of chemistry.

Luckily for Pauling, members of the Caltech faculty had already developed a close connection with an unusually skilled Pasadena artist, inventor and architect – Roger Hayward. His keen ability to illustrate scientific concepts in an accurate and accessible way made him the perfect choice to create the visuals for Pauling’s textbook.


Illustration by Roger Hayward of a high-vacuum apparatus as published in Procedures in Experimental Physics, 1938.

Illustration by Roger Hayward of a high-vacuum apparatus as published in Procedures in Experimental Physics, 1938.

A trained architect, Roger Hayward’s career path was unique, to say the least. A recent transplant from the East Coast when the Depression hit, Hayward was forced to expand his occupational enterprises well beyond architecture, as sour economic times dried up the building design market for several years running. While this was surely a difficult transition for Hayward, the period did grant him the opportunity to cultivate his creativity and his talents in many other fields of interest.

As he endeavored to make ends meet, Hayward’s artistic inclinations led him to explore broad new avenues, from painting to puppeteering. For a time, he even satisfied his interests in scientific experimentation by performing research in the field of optics and ballistics at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, studies which ultimately resulted in his attaining seven patents for optical devices and procedures. Indeed, Hayward had already made a place for himself in the sciences by the time that Pauling approached him with the offer to illustrate General Chemistry. Aside from his optics work, Hayward had already illustrated a number of scientific publications, including a textbook, Procedures in Experimental Physics.

The principal author of Procedures in Experimental Physics was Hayward’s close friend John D. Strong, a professor of physics and astronomy at Caltech. Strong felt comfortable collaborating with Hayward because he was very familiar with his friend’s interests in science and art, and he appreciated his strong aptitude in both disciplines. Procedures in Experimental Physics was a success, and both Strong and Hayward received good reviews for their work.

Buoyed by this strong critical reception, Hayward’s continuing interest and understanding of architecture, art and science positioned him well within the community of scientific illustrators. As with others, Hayward was adept at creating an aesthetically appealing yet technically precise illustration. But the trait that really set him apart was the pleasure that he took in researching the science behind his assignments. In many respects, Hayward was as much a scientist as he was an artist.


Roger Hayward, ca. 1960s.

Roger Hayward, ca. 1960s.

Published in 1938, Procedures in Experimental Physics marked the beginning of a new and prosperous chapter of Hayward’s unique career. During this period, scientific illustration would be the main focus of his energies, with architecture and the fine arts slipping well into the background. As his reputation grew, he found regular work with Scientific American, a popular science magazine, and was commonly sought out by professors at Caltech. It was during this time as well that Pauling became acquainted with Hayward. Not surprisingly, when Pauling needed to find an illustrator for his first college text book, his thoughts immediately turned to Hayward.

Working with Pauling, however, was not the same as working with John Strong. Strong had such a high appreciation for Hayward’s work as both a scientist and an artist that he split royalties on basis of space coverage. This meant that Strong assigned as much monetary value to Hayward’s illustrations as he did to his other co-authors’ written work. Strong’s perspective, however, was rather unique and when Pauling first asked Hayward to illustrate General Chemistry, he did not expect the illustrations to cost as much as Hayward billed.

Most scientists, including Pauling, believed that the training, research and experimentation from which a text results have more merit than do illustrations. Though he placed a premium on visual depictions, in Pauling’s mind it seemed fair to assign more value to the text than to the illustration. Pauling’s publisher, William Freeman of W.H. Freeman & Co., agreed with Pauling and referred to Hayward as “a bit of a prima donna” because he believed that Hayward overestimated the value of his work. In his correspondence with Pauling, Freeman also revealed that Hayward had regularly come into conflict with his firm over compensation issues. The company, however, continued to contract with Hayward simply because his illustrations were unsurpassed.

After settling their differences, Pauling and Hayward began to bond over their similar interests. By then, John Strong had taken a position in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University. His closest science-minded friend now on the other side of the country, Hayward increasingly came to use his connection with Pauling to further discussions on scientific advances.

Hayward’s background as an artist and architect also enabled his exploration of three-dimensional molecular models, a pursuit of special affinity for Pauling, and once again, the two began discussing each other’s ideas. Pauling suggested that Hayward use models to convey recent findings in structural chemistry, especially regarding crystal structure. Gradually, through many conversations, Pauling too came to recognize Hayward as a scientist, rather than merely a skilled artist.

Dr. Ina Heumann, Resident Scholar

Ina Heumann

Dr. Ina Heumann, a historian of science affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, is the most recent individual to complete a term as Resident Scholar in the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections.  Heumann spent two months in Corvallis studying the Roger Hayward Papers and the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers as part of her on-going investigation into the connection between art and science with a specific focus on illustrated scientific texts.

From her study of the relationships built by Roger Hayward over his more than three decades as a scientific illustrator, Heumann found that significant tensions regularly arose between scientist and artist.  Without doubt, prominent among these tensions was the issue of money.  One striking example involved Hayward’s provision of a large bulk of illustrations to the publishing house W. H. Freeman & Co. for use in the first two editions of Pauling’s profoundly successful text General Chemistry.  While Pauling’s General Chemistry royalties in 1949 alone amounted to $5,000, Hayward received roughly $120.  Indeed, questions over just compensation for the value added by illustrations in scientific texts would dot Hayward’s long association with the Freeman company. And while both sides usually found room for compromise in their periodic bargaining sessions, the discussions were often acrimonious.

Of equal or even greater importance were issues of hierarchy and respect.  As many, including Heumann, have pointed out, Hayward was no ordinary illustrator.  For one, he thoroughly researched the science behind the instruments and processes that we was depicting; in that sense he “knew what he was drawing” on levels far beneath the surface.  At the same time, it was of vital importance to Hayward that his drawings be understandable and comfortable to the reader.  As he wrote

I try to put in enough familiar details so the reader will recognize them and feel on familiar ground.  Therefore I am careful to show more detail of glassware, for instance, than he really needs.

Despite the level of thought and attention that Hayward poured into his work, Heumann uncovered numerous instances in which Hayward was made to understand his place in the pecking order.  As most bluntly discussed by William H. Freeman in an important letter sent to Pauling in January 1953, Hayward was viewed as

a bit of a primadonna.  He has to be handled just so.  He thinks of himself as a professional person – which he is – who wants to be treated as such, rather than as a skilled craftsman.  Like all artists (and he is one of those, basically), he is a bit of a problem and [in] this case a bit of a genius.

Heumann argues that Hayward should more accurately be thought of as a “border crosser.”  In her Resident Scholar talk, she fleshed out this idea:

Hayward was architect, artist, craftsman, illustrator and inventor, not to mention his interest and competence in chemistry, optics, physics or mathematics.  However: The only formal degree he had was in architecture and technical engineering.  He was a self-made man, someone who loved to ‘get the books and dig the knowledge out’ by himself, as he once put it….Thus Hayward’s talent to serve as intermediate figure rooted at the same time on his deficiency: he was always in-between, being neither a scientist nor a mere illustrator, neither an educated expert nor just an average layman….Consequently, he was both needed and at the same time neglected.

It was this status as “border crosser” that lay at the heart of many of the creative and professional constrictions with which Hayward and his peers struggled throughout much of the twentieth century.

Hayward enjoyed a far more harmonious relationship with Scientific American magazine, whose “Amateur Scientist” column he illustrated for some twenty-four years.  Described by publisher Dennis Flanagan as “a marriage made in heaven,” Hayward’s partnership with the magazine proved fruitful for all parties involved.  The column, in particular, provided Hayward with an opportunity to stretch his intellectual wings given that he was, in essence, an amateur scientist himself.  And so it is that the illustrator regularly, in Heumann’s words,

contributed countless ideas and suggestions for improvements of the devices he had illustrated.  The letters were often literally published in the column, citing Hayward as an experienced expert of amateur science.  He illustrated and commented on questions like ‘How to measure the Metabolism of Animals,’ ‘Cloud Chambers and Detecting Nuclear Events,’ or how to construct inexpensive x-ray machines.

At their zenith, the “Amateur Scientist” columns were excellent examples of “scriptovisual documents” – documents that “can be read and looked at simultaneously.”  So too was the 1954 journal publication “The Structure of Protein Molecules,” authored by Linus Pauling, Robert Corey and Roger Hayward, and containing nine columns of text and nearly eighteen columns of drawings.

It is these sorts of scriptovisual documents, Heumann argues, that most directly prove the worth of the work done by individuals like Hayward.  For centuries drawings have enabled scientists to develop their own ideas in private and have likewise become essential to communicating complex information to a broader audience.  It was and remains morally and intellectually correct for scientific illustrators to place a premium on their work.  On the same token, the study of scientific illustration remains a tantalizing prospect for further historical examination.  As Heumann writes, “It becomes very obvious in the papers of Roger Hayward: behind the images is a story as worthy to be told as behind the texts.”

The OSU Libraries Special Collections Resident Scholar Program is supported by the Peter and Judith Freeman Fund. Past recipients have included Dr. Burtron Davis of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, Toshihiro Higuchi of Georgetown University, Dr. Mina Carson, professor of history at Oregon State University, Jane Nisselson, a documentary filmmaker based in New York City and Julia Bursten, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh.