The Scientific War Work of Linus C. Pauling All Documents and Media  
Home | Search | Narrative | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day

All Documents and Media

Letter from Linus Pauling to Richard C. Tolman. June 12, 1940.
In response to a request from the Committee on Defense Cooperation, Pauling writes to describe the facilities available for use at Caltech as well as the types of work which might be conducted by various members of the Institute's staff.


June 12, 1940

Dean Richard C. Tolman

National Academy of Sciences

Washington, D.C.

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 rooms.

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 separation.

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 chemistry.


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.

Yours truly,

Linus Pauling


Return to Document Page

Home | Search | Narrative | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day