With his health greatly improved and much of the burden of the oxygen meter project
taken over by Beckman and his associates, 1942 looked promising for Pauling. In April
he received a letter from George Kistiakowsky requesting his aid in Pittsburgh. The Bruceton Laboratory had reached critical mass
with nearly one-hundred men laboring on a variety of war projects and things were
beginning to go awry. The men, though intelligent and hard working, were being worn
down by the grind of constant, monotonous work and were quickly losing perspective.
What the Pittsburgh group needed was an outsider to focus their work and give a little
spark to the job. Pauling, with his expansive theoretical knowledge and infectious
interest in all things scientific, fit that requirement beautifully. Kistiakowsky
asked that Pauling visit the lab for the summer and act "as a general advisor and
consultant without any specific duties unless you wish to assume them, talking to
the men reading such reports as may interest you, criticizing the ideas and methods
of approach, and making any suggestions when they occur to you."
Pauling could barely believe his good fortune. Kistiakowsky was promising him the
best possible vacation - weeks of uninterrupted, informal collaboration with some
of the country's top scientists and absolutely no paperwork or administrative duties.
After hashing out the details of his stay, Pauling agreed to visit Bruceton for approximately
one month between mid-July and mid-August. A few weeks later, he and J. Holmes Sturdivant,
his right hand man, boarded a Pullman car for Pennsylvania.
There is little record of Pauling's work during his stay in Bruceton. While he maintained
contact with the OSRD and his associates in California, he appears to have sent very
few letters from Pittsburgh. Even his notes are limited - a symptom of the transient
nature of his visit. The documents that do exist suggest that much of his time was
spent asking questions meant to stimulate the work and thinking of the Bruceton men.
It is clear, however, that Pauling's own thinking was also stimulated. On July 15,
he sent a letter to a coworker suggesting that silica might be used to coat polished
glass. During his stay in Bruceton, he mailed several more letters which expanded
on the idea. He even sent instructions to have A.O. Beckman begin preparing silica
fibers for research.
However Pauling spent his time in Bruceton, he and Sturdivant returned to the West
Coast invigorated and ready to return to their own research. The glass project never
materialized in the Pauling laboratories, though it may have received attention elsewhere.
Nevertheless, it is evident that Bruceton had a positive effect on him. In the months
following his return, Pauling began some of his most fascinating research of the war