Pauling’s growing reputation led in the spring of 1929 to the offer of a full professorship
at Harvard, which Pauling then used to advance himself at Caltech. The Caltech executive
council quickly countered the Harvard offer by promoting Pauling to associate professor
(after only two years as an assistant professor), awarding him substantial pay raises
over the coming two years, support for a laboratory assistant, two more graduate students,
and travel money for a European trip.
But Harvard remained serious. There was talk of building new courses in crystal structure
and chemical physics around Pauling, even creating a new department devoted to the
young researcher's brand of what was now being called "quantum chemistry."
So Pauling visited, arriving in Cambridge for a week in early May 1929. He was treated
royally, staying in the home of organic chemist James Bryant Conant (who was soon to become president of Harvard), touring the new chemical laboratories,
presenting seminars, and attending receptions. He was twenty-eight years old and flattered
by the attention, but he also found things-some big, some little-he did not like.
Whereas Caltech was becoming famous for allowing researchers a free hand to develop
their own unique approaches to science, at Harvard, Pauling found, subdisciplines
such as organic chemistry and physical chemistry had ossified into separate fiefdoms.
There was a sense of backbiting and politicking and a hoarding of talent he did not
like. A product of the egalitarian American West, Pauling also received his first
taste of eastern class snobbery. "Here was a society where there were a lot of important
people who were important just because of birth. They had money and stature not based
on their own abilities," he remembered. "I thought I would be a sort of second-class
citizen at Harvard."