June 12, 1940
Dean Richard C. Tolman
National Academy of Sciences
Dear Dean Tolman:
I make the following report to the Committee on Defense Cooperation on the facilities
of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering of the California Institute
of Technology, together with suggestions regarding the types of work which could be
carried on here most effectively.
There are in the Division twenty staff members, twenty post-doctorate research
fellows and research assistants, about thirty-two teaching fellows and assistants,
about fifteen additional graduate students, and eight technical men (instrument maker,
assistants, carpenter, stockroom men). These men work in various fields of organic
chemistry and physical chemistry and in chemical engineering. The work in the last
field carried on by Professors Lacey and Sage and their students and assistants, deals
largely with the physical properties of mixtures of hydrocarbons. I shall not report
on this work and the facilities available for it.
Available Facilities for Research
For research in organic chemistry there are the following facilities:
Three research laboratories, each 22' x 52', each equipped with ten chemical desks.
Fourteen smaller laboratories equipped with chemical desks; each laboratory can be
occupied by one or two research men.
Stockroom with extensive supplies of chemicals, glassware, and other apparatus.
Laboratories for semimicro and microanalysis.
Machinery room for centrifuges, shakers, mills, and other machinery; cold room; instrument
rooms for spectroscopes, polariscopes, refractometers; solvent room for stills for
purification and recovery of solvents.
For research in physical and inorganic chemistry there are the following facilities:
Eighteen laboratories, equipped with chemical benches and in some cases with vacuum
benches; each laboratory can be occupied by from one to four research men.
Five laboratories, with total floor area about 3,000 sq. ft., for research on x-ray
diffraction and electron diffraction; one laboratory, 600 sq. ft., for magnetic investigations;
six laboratories, area about 3,000 sq. ft., for spectroscopic work; four laboratories
for measurements of low temperature heat capacities and other work in chemical thermodynamics.
Well equipped instrument and machine shop; wood shop; stockroom; and miscellaneous
In addition the chemical laboratories contain offices for staff members and laboratories
for undergraduate instruction. In case of emergency these laboratories also, consisting
of three large laboratories, about 20' x 50' in size, and a few smaller ones, all
outfitted with chemical desks, might be used. They are in any case available during
the summer months.
Types of Investigation Which Might Be Carried On.
1. Organic Chemistry
The staff members and fellows and assistants in organic chemistry could tackle
almost any problem in the field of organic chemistry. The especial interests of the
staff members are the following:
Professor Carl Hiemann: synthetic organic chemistry, proteins, polysaccharides,
fatty substances in brain and nerve tissue.
Professor Howard J. Lucas: the properties of olefins and other unsaturated
compounds, physical organic chemistry.
Dr. E.R. Buchman: synthetic organic chemistry, the chemistry of vitamins
(especially B 2).
Dr. J.B. Koepfli: alkaloids, plant growth hormones, active principle in marijuana.
Professor L. Zechmeister (Hungarian Citizen): natural pigments, especially
carotenoids; the production of carbohydrates from wood; chromatographic analysis and
Professor A.J. Haagen-Smith (Department of Biology): microanalysis, plant
growth hormones, active principle in marijuana.
2. Physical and Inorganic Chemistry
The fields of special interest of the staff members in physical and inorganic
chemistry are the following:
Professor Linus Pauling: the properties of chemical substances, both organic
and inorganic; x-ray and electron diffraction; the structure and properties of hemoglobin,
antibodies, and other proteins.
Professor Roscoe G. Dickinson: photochemistry, reaction kinetics, thermodynamic
Professor Don M. Yost: inorganic chemistry, chemistry of flourine and other
halogens, low temperature work, thermodynamic chemistry.
Professor Ernest H. Swift: qualitative and quantitative inorganic analysis.
Professor James H. Sturdivant: instrument design, especially of x-ray apparatus;
x-ray diffraction by crystals.
Professor Richard M. Badger: spectroscopy in the visible infrared and ultraviolet
regions, optical apparatus in general, physical and colloid chemistry.
Dr. R.B. Corey: x-ray diffraction by crystals.
3. Cooperative Attack on General Problems
Conditions are especially good in the Division for the cooperative attack on
problems involving the services and knowledge of specialists in various fields, such
as organic chemistry, inorganic and physical chemistry, and instrument design. This
cooperation might also, of course, be extended to include men in other Divisions of
the Institute. Aside from conventional work in physical and inorganic chemistry, mention
might be made of the extensive experience in and facilities for instrument design,
such as that of x-ray diffraction apparatus, and experience in mathematical calculations
of various sorts, especially numerical solution of equations of high degree.
A factor which may deserve emphasis is the great ingenuity possessed by many
staff members of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering as well as of
other Divisions in the Institute. I suggest that the type of problem which could most
profitably be given for solution to the staff
is that in which the problem itself is posed, but for which no solution has been found
of perhaps even indicated. Problems of this general type could be attacked from all
sides by a group of chosen men representing various fields of experience, with considerable
hope for successful solution.