The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ken Hedberg Oral History Interviews

Four life history interviews conducted by Chris Petersen.

September - October 2011


“An Oregon Childhood During Hard Times”  September 9, 2011  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

In interview 1, Hedberg discusses his birth in Portland, his upbringing in Washington and southern Oregon, and his memories of tough times during the Great Depression. He also reflects on his high school years and his early interest in science, and his beginning college years at Southern Oregon Normal School.

The interview then shifts to Hedberg's undergraduate experience at Oregon State College, with particular focus paid to campus social life in the late 1930s and early 1940s, his academic progression, important mentors, and the research that he conducted while an undergrad.

The session concludes with Hedberg's reflections on his draft deferment, the work that he conducted for Shell Development Company during World War II, and his arrival for graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology.

“Caltech During Its Golden Age”  September 20, 2011  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

In interview 2, Hedberg describes his graduate and post-doctoral research at Caltech, his receipt of a Fulbright grant and a Guggenheim fellowship to travel and work in Norway, his adjusting to life in Norway, including learning Norwegian, and meeting and marrying Lise Smedvik.

From there he notes his return to Pasadena and discusses the relationships that he built at Caltech with various luminaries of its "golden age," including his interactions with Verner Schomaker and Linus Pauling. He likewise share his memories of other Caltech colleagues including Robert Corey, Dan Campbell, Roger Hayward and Jack Dunitz.

As the session nears its close, Hedberg speaks more specifically of Linus Pauling and the Pauling household. He recalls Pauling's social habits, the famous pool parties held at the Pauling home, and Pauling's children. The interview concludes with Hedberg's thoughts on the people and characteristics that comprised the "golden age" at Caltech, and his memories of another colleague, Edgar Heilbronner.

“Returning to Oregon State College”  September 29, 2011  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

Interview 3 begins with Hedberg's memories of Ava Helen Pauling. From there he recounts his acceptance of a job offer from Oregon State College, his return to Corvallis, and the process by which he set up his research program at OSC. In this, he describes his designing and building an electron diffraction apparatus, the techniques that he has used to study molecules over the years, particularly interesting molecules that he has examined, and his teaching work at Oregon State.

Hedberg also delves into his wife Lise's work at OSU, including the anti-nepotism rules that sometimes presented problems. He also discusses the evolution of computer use in the OSU Chemistry Department and provides a description of the "final folders" that are an ultimate outcome of his work determining compound structures.

“Reflections on People and Places”  October 20, 2011  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

Hedberg's fourth and final interview begins with his perspective on the courtship and donation of the Pauling Papers at Oregon State University. He also shares his memories of hosting the Paulings in Corvallis.

The interview next shifts gears to Hedberg's recollections of a variety of other colleagues. He begins by recounting his interactions with Clara and David Shoemaker, and then focuses on his connection to Norway and Norwegian scientists, including Otto Bastiansen, Odd Hassell and Kolbjörn Hagen.

A significant portion of the session is devoted to Hedberg's thoughts on numerous figures important to the history of the OSU Chemistry department. In addition to the Shoemakers, among those discussed are John Fulton, Francois Gilfillan, Earl Gilbert, Wendell Slabaugh, Bert Christiansen, Vernon Cheldelin and Carroll DeKock.

The interview winds up with a discussion of memorable interactions with graduate students and post-docs, a unique trip to Japan, and particular points of pride looking back on a long life.