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Ken Hedberg Oral History Interviews

September - October 2011 – 10:00a.m.

Audio: “Caltech During Its Golden Age” . September 20, 2011

Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.
Interviewer:  Chris Petersen

1:28:35 - Abstract | Biography | Download Transcript (PDF)


*Note: Interview recorded to audio only.

Chris Petersen: Okay, so we are recording now. And just like last time, real briefly, if you'd just state your name and today's date.

Ken Hedberg: Yeah, my name is Kenneth Hedberg, and what else do you want?

CP: Today's date. The 20th.

KH: The date today?

CP: Yeah.

KH: Oh, this is September 20th, 2011.

CP: So when we left off last time, you had just made the switch over to Verner Schomaker and you were starting your research with him. I was wondering if you could tell us about how that happened. How you met Schomaker and how you started on that project.

KH: Yeah, that was at Caltech. I can't remember whether I mentioned that I spent a year working with Gardener Swain - I think I did that, yeah. Well at the end of that time, I interviewed Verner Schomaker, whom I'd passed in the hall several times, and he had a group of people who were young, not far from my age. So I went to see him. We hit it off well and I decided that I would do my future work with him. And I began almost immediately and we decided we would look at a number of boron compounds that we were able - we didn't make them ourselves, we got them from a guy at USC who's name I can't remember now, a distinguished inorganic chemist of that era. And we began with diborane, which we measured and were able to show conclusively that it was a non-ethane-like structure. It had two hydrogens up above and below the boron-boron bond and the well-known bridge structure. After that we took up a number of other boron compounds including B4H10, B5H9, B5H11 and some substituted diboranes with chlorine and bromine atoms on them and also amino groups. Amino diborane, we studied. All of these took place in the next few years. I think some of them overlapped. I was still working on some of them after I got my degree and I continued there. So that was an exciting time.

I finished my degree in June of 1948 and I was offered a post-doc for a position, and that came about in an interesting way. Pauling came around one time in spring of 1947. That was only - or maybe it was the fall of '47, I'd only been there for at most 18 months - and he said 'I think you should write up your work for a degree.' And I said 'Well, I was hoping I'd be able to take another year and work that year with Professor Badger,' who was a distinguished spectroscopist. Pauling said to me, 'Well, you write up your thesis and get a degree and I'll see that you get a fellowship so you can spend an extra year working with Dick,' Dick Badger. Then he said, 'You know, you'll make a lot more money after you get your degree than you would before you get your degree. So why not? Your studying doesn't stop at the time you get your degree.'

So the logic of this was impeccable and I set about writing up my work for my thesis. So I finished writing up my thesis. Now the troublesome aspect of this is my supervisor, Verner Schomaker, was off on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Denmark, so the person that nominally oversaw my research was Robert Corey.


Robert Corey, of course, he and Pauling published a series of seven papers that ultimately led to Pauling's winning the Nobel Prize for his alpha helix and other things as well. Anyway, Bob Corey didn't know anything about electron diffraction, but he was a very nice friendly man. He helped me over some crucial points. I said 'I'm having a lot of trouble writing this thesis, getting it all right.' And he says 'well, tell me what it is that you're struggling with,' so I told him and he says 'well, why don't you write it down?' So I wrote down what I had been telling him and I edited it a little bit and that helped me over a hump.

Anyway, I finally finished my thesis and took my examination. Pauling was not present and Verner was not present either, still being in Denmark, so after I got my degree I continued to work for a while on the projects that I had been working until Verner returned from Denmark, and then sure enough, I got my degree and Pauling returned. I received a notice that I had been awarded a Noyes Fellowship which enabled me to spend a year working with Richard Badger, which I did. And I learned some spectroscopy in that year, but on the side I continued my work on electron diffraction as well. So that was a very nice year.

At the end of my fellowship year I was appointed as a research fellow at Caltech and I worked on a grant that Verner Schomaker had with the Office of Naval Research. At that time the Office of Naval Research was sponsoring basic research that didn't have much to do with the Navy, as far as I could make out. So I worked on that for a couple of years.

And then in 1951, I think it was, Pauling said to me - oh, maybe I should go back a step. During this year a number of people showed up at Caltech from abroad. Mostly post-doctoral people who were anxious to work either with Pauling or some other dignitary, and one or two with Verner Schomaker. And I became quite friendly with a number of these people, including a guy from Norway named Otto Bastiansen. I'm getting just a little ahead of the story there. I decided after I had a couple of years that I should have a post-doctorate fellowship, maybe abroad or something like that, so I decided that I would continue my work in spectroscopy.

So I filled out an application for a Fulbright Fellowship to Belgium. There was a man there with whom I wanted to work. So I filled this thing out and sent it all off and got back a notice in due course, a few months later, saying unfortunately my application had been received too late to be considered in that year's batch of Fulbright fellows, but they urged me to apply again for the following year. Well, in the following year my later friend Otto Bastiansen showed up from Norway and he was a specialist in electron diffraction and I had known him not personally but through publications. We hit it off, we became very friendly, my wife and myself and him and his wife and he had two small daughters. And so we worked together at Caltech for a while. And then as the year drew to a close he said 'Why don't you apply again for a Fulbright and apply this time to go to Norway instead of Belgium?' and I said 'well, that sounds to me like it might be worthwhile. Maybe I'll do that.'


About the same time, Pauling walked into my office one day and said to me 'I think you should apply for a Guggenheim Fellowship.' This is how he - he didn't say 'Would you like to?' He said 'I think you should do this.' Well, Pauling carried such an aura with him that when he made a suggestion, you know, you almost always followed through on it. Besides it was a prestigious fellowship and so I gulped and said 'Okay, I'll do that.' So I rolled out an application form, which was essentially the same proposal for research that I'd written to the Fulbright program, and I sent this off. And I waited around awhile, working away with Verner, not knowing what was going to happen.

Meanwhile, Bastiansen went back to Norway and in due course I got a letter from the Fulbright people saying I had been awarded a Fulbright research fellowship to go to Norway. And this paid all my living expenses and paid all my transportation back and forth. And about that same time, maybe a little later, Pauling walked into my office and said to me 'Well, are you getting ready to go to Norway?' He didn't know anything about me having received the Fulbright fellowship, so I said 'I didn't know I was going.' And I think I may have the chronology inverted a little bit. I think he may have come in before I received notice of the Fulbright Fellowship. That makes a little more sense in retrospect. But I said 'I didn't know I was going.' And he said 'Well, the selection committee generally follows my recommendations.' And then he turned and walked out. That was the total conversation we had on the issue.

And a bit later I got a letter from the Guggenheim people saying I had been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship to go to Norway. And it was $3,500. Well, then the Fulbright notice occurred, and now I had gone from no support to two rather well-endowed fellowships for the same period. So I thought, 'well, I'm going to have to let them know.' So I wrote off to the Guggenheim people and said I had also been awarded a Fulbright research fellowship and they said that the Guggenhiem money was given to me irrespective of whatever other awards or moneys that I had. Well, I felt pretty good about that, so I sent the same letter to the Fulbright people and they wrote back after a while and said we normally subtract money from additional grants from the Fulbright grants, but the amount of money that you have from the other source should be enough to support you for the full period of time before we will take any action on this. We have determined that the $3,500 - this is in 1952, that went a long way then - is not enough to support you in Norway for a full twelve months, so we will not subtract it from the amount that we give you for the Fulbright grant.

Well, the Fulbright grant was the equivalent of a little more money than that. I can't remember what it was. In kroner, I think it was 4,200 kroner a month and there were 7 kroner to the dollar then, so that was about $600/month, so that might have been $7,500 almost $10,000 in those days. Those were big bucks. Well at this time, my first wife decided that she met someone that she preferred to me so she left me and I had all this money and was going to go Norway with as a single person. So I booked passage on the Mauretania, traveled across the country, visited a couple of laboratories, went to Oakridge and visited some friends there, went on to New York, sent my luggage on ahead and in due course I embarked on the Mauretania which took me to Southampton. And I spent a few days in England and then I set sail again on another ship to Norway and when I arrived there, and this was a Norwegian ship liner, I was met at the pier by my friend Otto Bastiansen and a number of other people that I had met there. I didn't mention that I had been to Norway once before.


After I had met Bastiansen, I had gone to an international meeting in Stockholm and on my way back I stopped by and chatted with him a little bit on what we were going to do and we had a big party. It was a fine party. I can still remember it. I don't know if I should go into the details there but anyway it was a great party. So he and his friends and collaborators from his laboratory met me at the boat and they had been looking for a place for me to live. This was Norway in the fall of 1952, first of October. And it was after the war and Norway really hadn't begun to recover very much. And they told me they had found an apartment and they were ashamed to say it was terribly expensive but they thought it might suit me pretty well because it was very close to shopping at a, let me call it a district, anyway called Majorstuen and I had a fine apartment there. And it was owned by an English woman who was separated or divorced from her husband and she'd gotten this apartment and she was going back to England, where she came from originally, and she was going to rent it out for a year. And it cost, my friends told me, much overpriced, it was a hundred and fifty kroner a month. That's twenty dollars. Now, 150 kroner, remember my first check was 4,200 kroner and that paid my rent for the entire month! So anyway, I moved into this place, which was furnished. It had a kind of a couch or a bed, but it was perfectly satisfactory, and had a kitchen, a bath, and all of that. Kind of a studio arrangement. Within easy walking distance of the university up on the hill.

So I lived there and I had determined before I left that I was going to learn the language and my friend Bastiansen had been talking to the cultural attaché at the embassy and to the people in charge of the Fulbright program called the Nosta, that no longer exist and I think to an extent they're called Linguaphone records. They were 78's, and they got me an old record player, a friend had one of those, so I could play these records on it and hear the sounds. Along with these records came a book, and the book had a picture on it and it had the text that was spoken. So the idea was that you put the record on, and the first lesson of course was almost all obvious, the words were ones that you could transliterate from English, you know. So very slowly the words were spoken on the page and you could see the picture of what it was describing on the facing page. So I would look at this and the spoken word would come to you and you were supposed to repeat after this, mimicking the accent and tonality as closely as you could. And so I later came to admire these records very much because at the same time you saw the written language you heard it spoken and you had to speak it, and there was no translation except in the picture. And believe it or not, this happened in '52 and I can still recite lesson 1, 2, 3 almost by heart because after you'd gone through this thing there was another section where you were asked a question relating to this and you had to respond to that.


See, it was quite remarkable and an example of this, the first sentence was describing a picture 'Dette er familen Hansen.' Now you can almost say what that is. Norwegian is a language that has almost the same word order as English. Dette er means 'This is,' and 'This is the family Hansen,' in this picture. The next one is Bestefar sitter i en gyngestol. 'Grandfather is sitting in a rocking chair.' And you can see that if you note that at the bottom it says Bestefar, it says grandfather, and in the picture there is an old man, you know, with a beard, and he's sitting, sitter - you know that right away - in, i en gyngestol you already learned that stol means chair and gynge means rocker. Anyway that's just an example and I went through every day I came back from the university I would sit down and I would study. It's amazing, these things only played for three minutes if you played them through. It took me an hour to an hour and a half to get through a single lesson doing everything they wanted me to do. And in the morning I would go up to the university and my friends, they knew I was doing this, and I could recite the whole lesson to them which caused paroxysms of laughter. One of my friends said, 'The guy' - there were several voices as the lessons went on, the first was a man who had a... he was Norwegian, but he was rector of the university at that time and my friends swore they could hear his voice speaking when I spoke to them because I would mimic his accent.

Well, anyhow, when I first went up to the laboratory to meet Bastiansen in a work environment to talk and we knew what we were going to do, he introduced me to his laboratory assistant, whose name was Lise Smedvik and he said 'she's only been working with me three months, but I think the two of you should work together because I have administrative duties that I'm occupied with also.' So we engaged in this project and Lise and I worked on it together. Well, when I was introduced to her I was ever so impressed because, of course I was introduced in English on the first day or two and she spoke to me in English and we had a conversation and I later asked 'Well, have you spent any time in uh... Where'd you learn your English?'

'I learned it in school.'

'But haven't you been to England or the States?'

She says, 'Oh no, I've never been in an English speaking country.'

It impressed me so much, and this is true of all these people. You would walk in and they'd never been out of the country and they could talk to you in your language. Which of us can do that here? Yeah, it's almost impossible. Anyways we worked together for two to three days and then I, very interested in music, and the Oslo Philharmonic played downtown and I got in my car one time and went downtown. Oh, I think in the first few days I was there I decided I needed to have my own car. There were very few cars in Oslo at the time. Majorstuen today is one of the busiest places in town, I mean it's bumper to bumper getting through there. When I lived there, there was rarely a car, and they were all pre-war things. The country was so destitute and so devoid of money that cars were very, very hard to come by.

Anyway, I could buy a car - there were agencies there - but I had to pay for it in foreign currency and I had to agree to sell it. I mean, I had to agree to export the car, it had a special license plate on it, it had a Q number on it which means it was owned by a foreigner and meant you didn't have to pay tax. So the upshot of all this was that if I sold the car in the country at the end, taxes would have to be paid on it at that stage.

Anyways I bought this car, so I drove it downtown to go to the symphony a few weeks later. And as I walked in, there stood Lise picking up her ticket as I picked up mine, so we sat together and enjoyed the symphony and afterwards I asked her if she'd like to have an after concert snack. So we went to a restaurant, a famous place called Blom and it is still there, and we had a big cheese spread and had a good time together and we began to date regularly. And the upshot of all that was, after a year there I went back to the States and Lise and I were thinking of getting married and I wasn't quite ready to commit because I hadn't quite recovered from my first marriage. At any rate I got back to the States and I proposed to her and I came back the following summer, which was '54, and we were married in Oslo. Let's see, '54? I guess we've now been married 57 years haven't we? Anyhow, that was a romantic outcome and I've often speculated about this later. Suppose that Fulbright application that I had applied for to Holland, I mean to Belgium, had been successful? My life would have been quite different from what it is now. Such things fate turns...


CP: Was there any problems with her family in terms of this?

KH: How do you mean? Marrying a foreigner?

CP: Yes.

KH: Well, her mother had died a couple of years before I arrived. She had a sister and her father worked in a bank, a personnel manager of a bank, and she had an aunt, a sister of her mother, who lived upstairs in the apartment building. My wife's family, going back two generations, is a distinguished one. They came from Denmark and my wife's great-great-grandfather was the foreign minister of Denmark and he and one of his siblings founded essentially The New York Times of Denmark, called Politiken, and so the family had an interest in that newspaper. One of the other brothers was a distinguished newspaperman and critic. The name is well known. It's called Brandes, Edvard Brandes. You can find books written about the Brandes family in Denmark. Well that was her great-great-grandfather and great-great-uncle.

Anyways, Lise's mother stemmed from this group, as did her aunt upstairs, who became kind of a surrogate mother to her after her own mother died. So we came back and Lise's father - I enjoyed him a lot. He's very taciturn. Some Norwegians don't say very much, but I think he was pleased that I could speak to him in his language. He didn't know - he could speak a few words of English but he wasn't as comfortable in it. So we hit it off very well. And Lise's aunt too, was a patrician type person, had beautiful furniture and paintings and so on and her husband was a distinguished Norwegian scholar and so on. Very wealthy. This family, Lise's aunt, uncle and cousin, who she is still very close to, we see them go out often. They have a lot of fancy stuff. They have paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, they have Munch originals, Edvard Munch, watercolors and lithographs and so on in their house. It's just something on the wall and I was pretty impressed by all of that. So after we were married—

CP: I'd like to know, did you have a Norwegian wedding?

KH: Ah, no, we married in the City Hall in Norway. You haven't been to Norway have you? Well they have an absolutely beautiful City Hall and it's got marvelous paintings around it, huge murals on the wall, that depict the development and evolution of the Norwegian nation. And outside they have some carved, huge carved wooden figures from Norse mythology. Odin is there on his eight-legged horse with two ravens ahead. All in wood, you can see up there. No, we were married - Lise had arranged the license before I arrived - and we were married in this office and it was a civil wedding. I'm not sure but I think as far as I know a lot of Norwegian weddings are done in that fashion. At least in the generation that Lise stems from.


So after we were married we futzed around a while because we had to get a visa for her and that's a story which irritates me still. So we apply for a visa down at the embassy. And the embassy is very worried that there are foreigners that want to marry American citizens just to get into the country and you have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops. And time went on, one week turned into two, turned into three and so on. And no word. No word at all. So I finally wrote to a friend of mine that I'd met at Caltech and was then a scientist working in Washington and I explained the situation to him and he pulled some strings and discovered that the application was sitting on a desk someplace in a pile of papers that they were working through and they would get to it. So I virtually blew my top at this because here I am sitting in Oslo and not getting paid because I'm not working, waiting for some secretary to clear my application for a visa. So I wrote to my Congressman in Pasadena and he wrote back a rather dismissive letter saying, 'We have to make absolutely certain that these marriages are not marriages of convenience.' And you can imagine how I felt at that. He was a conservative Republican and that probably turned me into a Democrat forever.

Anyhow, eventually we got a visa and got on a plane and flew to Washington, spent a night there, and then went on to Pasadena. And my wife was very tired at this time and discouraged. Norway had beautiful atmospheric conditions. You could breathe deeply and the sky was clear. And we landed in a heavy smog time in LA and she later said she felt like getting right back on the next plane and going home with that experience. So we stayed there. I went back to work at Caltech as a Senior Research Fellow now and continued until I heard about the job at Oregon State. Now, shall I go on to that?

CP: Well I have some more questions about Caltech so how about we talk about Caltech a little bit more before we switch? It sounds like the first experience you had with spectroscopy was with Schomaker, is that accurate?

KH: No, it was Dick Badger. I did electron diffraction with Schomaker which is a different technique. Some people call it electron spectroscopy but it is not.

CP: Could it all be bundled under the heading of crystallography or is that something separate?

KH: I'm sorry?

CP: Can it be bundled under the heading of crystallography or is that a separate discipline?

KH: It's a separate discipline but it's similar to crystallography in the sense that you measure a diffraction pattern. The diffraction patterns are very, very different because I'm looking at molecules of a gas and X-ray diffraction looks at molecules in a crystal or at least a condensed phase.

CP: So how would you classify your discipline?

KH: Well, how do you mean classify? It's a technique for studying the sizes and shapes of individual molecules.

CP: What would you call yourself?

KH: A physical chemist with interests in structural chemistry.

CP: I guess what I'm wondering is at what point did you decide that this is what you wanted to pursue as a career?

KH: Oh, I see. Well, when I was at Caltech, as I say, I started doing organic reaction mechanisms for a year, then I did electron diffraction, and in the course of this I did a crystal structure with two other people and then I did spectroscopy with Dick Badger, so I had four different experiences there. Now this is a little unusual because at this institution it is rare that a student works for more than one person in the course of getting his or her degree. Usually you pick a supervisor and you work on his projects and you write up a thesis and you're out of here. But I worked, and in my thesis, the Badger work, of course I was a post-doctoral fellow at that time, but in the course of getting my degree I did three things, all of these things were written up in my thesis in different sections. That's a little unusual. Probably a little unusual for Caltech too in that people often do two different things, but three with three different people is a quite different.


I don't know whether I mentioned - that crystal structure was very interesting. It had to do with a compound called arsenobenzene which has a formula that I can describe verbally as two benzene rings and two arsenic atoms. And it was generally thought that the benzene rings are hooked to the two arsenic atoms and the two arsenic atoms are joined together by a double bond, as we say in the language. But it was pretty well understood at that time that arsenic doesn't like to form double bonds very readily and particularly in a compound like this where there is no opportunity - for example no oxygens around, to form normal bonds. So it was widely thought to be a dimer, the one I described with just two units hooked together, but we suspected that wasn't true. So when we looked at it we saw that there was actually a six membered ring of arsenic atoms with these bent benzene rings flopping off, one off of each arsenic atom. So it's a hexamer really, and a very nice molecule.

And the interesting thing about this is many years later, I got a photocopy, an enlarged photocopy, which I still have, - this is before the Euro became the official currency of Europe - I have a 200 mark German bank note - 200 marks was big bucks in those days - and on it is a picture of a man responsible for discovering the first arsenicals in the use for treating syphilis in particular. Well, one of the arsenicals used, I gather, was arsenobenzene. Because on this bank note our paper is actually cited with the three authors and the date - which happens to be wrong, but anyways, it's on the face of this bank note. I thought that was lots of fun.

So anyway that's what I did at Caltech and I call myself a structure chemist. The thing that led me into electron diffraction was, you have to realize this was fifty odd years ago now, it was kind of a cutting edge technology, it was the best way, everything considered, of determining the sizes and shapes and motions of individual molecules that are unaffected by the presence of others. In a crystal structure, of course, the molecules are all packed together. And the other technique that works on the same phase is microwave spectroscopy but in order for microwave spectroscopy to succeed, the molecule has to have a dipole moment and a lot of them don't. Arsenobenzene, for example, wouldn't, so you couldn't study it. But we can study anything we can get into a gas phase with electron diffraction. So I decided to continue with that work because I liked what I was doing with Schomaker at Caltech and that's what got me started.

CP: You mentioned Schomaker and Corey. I'm interested in knowing a little bit more about what they were like. What they're personalities were like. Did you spend time with them socially?

KH: Well, I can tell you... Well Schomaker, he was - in my way of thinking - he was a brilliant scientist but not aggressive in the sense that he pushed like a lot of people do. You know, in science it isn't always enough to have talent. You have to be a salesman as well. And people like Linus Pauling, he is a tremendous salesman because he had a personality that took in the whole room, and he had a sense of humor, and his lectures were very, very heavily attended. People would come from miles around to hear him. I've heard him lecture to packed halls in several foreign countries. There were other people who are distinguished also but have a very tiring personality. And some of these have won Nobel Prizes, but they don't have a public acclaim that a person like Pauling does or Ahmed Zewail does from Caltech. And these guys sell themselves, you know? And there are other people too.


Schomaker was a brilliant scientist and a very critical thinker. He was amazing in that respect. He was so highly regarded that Pauling would come down and bounce his ideas off of Schomaker. He would come into the office and talk to Schomaker. He'd say 'Verner, what do you think of this?' and Schomaker would describe something. And other people, organic chemists from the third floor of Caltech - names are getting harder for me to come by quickly - would come down and talk to him about various problems they had. And he was like a bulldog. He couldn't let go of a problem. He would analyze it, turn it around, turn it upside down and then, if this, that etc. etc. And these people would sit there and listen to him very carefully. So that's the kind of guy he was. He also... We went hiking. Sierra backpacking. We became close personal friends as well as me being his student. So we did hikes on the high Sierras on a couple of vacations and I used to go every summer for anywhere between 1-2 weeks, backpacking in the high Sierras. So we would do that. And he was eager and interested in that. There are a host of interesting events but I'm not quite sure how much of this I should go into, so let me talk about Corey.

Corey was a very nice man and he helped me a great deal when Schomaker wasn't there in that last year when I was writing up my thesis. And he was a crystallographer and I don't remember the details so I won't try to recite them but I've read them. You can get them from the Caltech archives. The Caltech archives tell all about Pauling encountering Corey and inviting him to come to Caltech. So at any rate, he suffered from some kind of nervous disorder, and it was not Parkinson's, in that he had some ticks that would cause his whole arm to move a little bit and when he walked sometimes with a little bit of motion. I'm not quite sure what it was but that was not evident in his speech when you talked to him. And when he was sitting down you didn't see any Parkinson's like motion from him at all. But he would come to see me and I would come to see him any time I wanted. He was responsible for a very large laboratory that was headed up by a guy who was making compounds of the sort that Pauling was interested in that played a role ultimately in his formulation of the alpha helix. So I don't know much more about him than just that. But to this day I am very grateful for what he did to me in the time of Schomaker's absence.

CP: Did you know Dan Campbell?

KH: Yes. Dan was a very nice guy too. And he had a very nice wife. I knew Dan Campbell quite well because there was a very free social order at Caltech. All kinds of parties for the students, post docs and the faculty. You have a student party, you know, and everybody would be invited and Dick Badger would show up with his wife and Dan and his wife would show up and others as well. Pauling didn't come to these parties as far as I know. I don't remember ever seeing him there but I do remember a number of them in which people from physics came. Dick Feynman showed up at a number of these. I've heard Feynman play his bongo drums at these parties.


So Campbell was a nice guy. He had a medical problem which was solved. He had colon cancer and they removed a large tumor from his colon. I don't think he ever suffered a reoccurrence of that. He was what was called an immuno-chemist and that was something that Pauling was interested in at the time, immunochemistry. So does that answer your question of what I knew about Campbell?

CP: Did you ever by chance meet Roger Hayward?

KH: Yes, but only in passing. Roger Hayward, of course, was illustrating Pauling's books for him, and had a number of beautiful figures in various books. But only in passing I just met him, I never had a chance to talk with him at all.

CP: We have Hayward's papers. We also have the papers of Jack Dunitz.

KH: Oh do you?

CP: Yes.

KH: Yeah, I guess you told me that last time.

CP: I'm interested in knowing a little bit more about Jack in terms of as a person and also why is he important amongst scientists.

KH: Well, I didn't talk about Jack before did I? No. Jack became, and is to this day, a very good friend of mine. He showed up after getting his degree in Scotland with J.M. Robertson and he came to Caltech and in the British system when you study for a Ph.D. you do your undergraduate work, you study for a Ph.D. But my understanding is that you don't do much course work from that point on. So Jack attended lectures at Caltech all on subjects that he had an interest in what he had not been exposed to before. We worked together a little bit. We published a paper together. And Jack has an absolutely incredible sense of humor. And he could do... he's not a pushy guy, it's kind of a laid-back wry sense of humor, but he's not a retiring individual at all, he's a very social guy, he's just not a pushy social guy.

So he came to Caltech and he was working on crystallography and on electron diffraction and then he was joined by, well I won't say he was joined by, another guy came named Leslie Orgel, and Jack and Leslie became very good friends. Leslie, he died recently, but he was a distinguished scientist. He was a theoretical chemist to begin with but began to turn to molecular biology later on and went to the Salk Institute and had a distinguished career there.

When Pauling won his Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954 we had a huge, big, let's call it a review in a vaudeville sort of way where there were lots of skits and songs and that sort of thing. And there was a talented guy named Ted Harold, who was also from Britain, who could write music and play the piano. He composed a lot of stuff. And among other things that were composed were little acts a participant would do; a kind of monologue. And Jack was involved in one of these. It's a famous one. The whole thing has been recorded and you probably have copies of it here. It was called "The Road to Stockholm." In there, there was something where one of the individuals is sitting in his laboratory looking out the window at the young girls going by in front of a 'cold boonsen' as Jack puts it. If you haven't heard that record, it should be put on tape or disk because it's on shellac and homemade so it tends to deteriorate. So Jack participated in things like that. And then a young lady came and they began to go together. Her name was Daphne, I don't remember her last name.


At any rate they became very close and got engaged to be married. She was a post-doctoral person working in biology and they had met at one of these social occasions, I guess, and they were together a lot in groups and big parties. All of us were. And then Daphne went home and Jack's period at Caltech ended and he went home and then it turned out that she had decided against the marriage and broke the engagement. Well Jack, at this time, was working with Dorothy Hodgkin in Oxford and I was on a trip to Europe for some meeting or another and I stopped by and visited with Jack. He told me that it was really a hard thing for him but it turned out Daphne never married after that. We're not quite sure. And the reason that they broke up, it's a little obscure, but I can say this at least as a rumor, she decided that - Jack is Jewish and she is not. And this religious conflict apparently was something she decided she couldn't live with. At any rate, a year or two later, Jack met another young woman, his present wife, whose name is Barbara. And he met her at Blackwells in Oxford. She was - I don't remember what her background is - working in the store there in Blackwells and they hit it off immediately. She's a beautiful girl. And they were married and they have, I think, two children.

So Jack, at the end of this period in Britain - you may have all of this on record but you want me to tell you what I know about it - his future career was... Dorothy Hodgkin had, of course, worked on the structure of vitamin B12 and had determined it's structure and had presented this a plenary lecture at a meeting and I happened to be there. She got a standing ovation for this and later got the Nobel Prize for her work. Well this lecture or other work that she had been doing with organic molecules impressed the people and the organic college - I don't know if it was a school or a division - at the ETH in Zurich, and they asked her to recommend somebody who could be in organic chemistry who could determine structures and she recommended Jack. Well he went there, gave a lecture, showed what he was doing and the upshot of all this was they hired him as a faculty member. He's had a distinguished career there. It just widened his horizons immensely.

He became a professor, which in the old German system was about the equivalent of a well-regarded Senator in this country. And he spent his entire career in Zurich. He's now retired, but I think he still has an office, although I'm not sure what he's doing. Occasionally I run across him in this country, and I write to him occasionally also. So his reputation grew by leaps and bounds. He's a foreign associate of the Academy of Sciences and he gave the Baker Lectures at Cornell - that's the same lecture series that Pauling gave that resulted in his book The Nature of the Chemical Bond. Jack's had a wonderful career. He's a very, very nice man.

CP: Does he have any major discoveries that he's known for, or is it just an accumulation of his work?


KH: Well it's a little hard to tell. Major discoveries in the scientific sense, he has a distinguished publication record, not in the amount but the things he took up and studied thoroughly. Basic science is very helpful to others. But I don't follow crystallography very closely so I can't tell you much about what he has done. I do know that he worked very hard on the conformations of rings and various members in the rings, various elements in the rings. 5, 6, 7, 8 member rings and so on. He's known for that.

CP: I'd like to talk about Pauling for a little bit. It sounds like he was certainly a person who spent time with others, but it often sounds like it's not in any sort of social way.

KH: Yes, well he wasn't anti-social at all, it's just the kinds of parties that I'm describing that many but not all the faculty attended, like... oh, I'm trying to think of an example, you mentioned Dan Campbell and Dick Badger and Verner and a number of other faculty members as well as post-docs and graduate students, we'd all have a big party. Everyone was on a first name basis; I never called Badger anything other than his first name. Even as a student, that's how he was known. Almost everyone was on a first name basis, except with Pauling. He was always Dr. Pauling. He sort of carried an aura with him and although he was friendly enough, you know, you only came so far. He always called me by my first name, even on visits around here. I never really called him by his first name with any comfort at all because he never invited it.

Now, I should tell you something. This is kind of going back to my stay in Norway. The person who headed up the laboratory when I first went there was a man named Odd Hassel. He later won the Nobel Prize. Hassel was... is it alright if I tell a little bit about Hassel?

CP: Absolutely.

KH: He was an interesting man. In the Norwegian system then they had professorships just like the German system. He was a professor of physical chemistry and there was a professor of organic chemistry whose name was Berner and a professor of inorganic chemistry. These three groups. But Hassel was unique. He was virtually, I don't know that I could call him an albino, but he had very light features, very light hair and he had kind of a nystagmus and had trouble reading. He never married and he had a lot of money that he inherited. He was a very good scientist. During the war he was very aggressive and he was imprisoned along with a couple of other people and they were kept in a camp in Oslo and they were not allowed to teach. The university was closed. And against all regulations in this camp, Hassel organized a series of lectures and studies so the imprisoned people there actually learned a lot from people who had been incarcerated from people who would lecture on topics, you see, but people who had been put in the camp with them. So Hassel didn't knuckle under at all to the Germans. So when the war ended and he went back and resumed his position at Oslo, all the people who had been in the camp with him used the familiar form of address. At that time in Norway there were two words for you which is du and de. So he was de with... of the old school he was de with almost everybody he didn't know, older people especially always refer to other people as de and dem.


Anyway, Hassel - after I had been there a year and come back I would always make a point of going into see Hassel because he was the professor. In effect I think he was kind of a lonely man. Because he had no family, he had a live-in housekeeper who served him his meals and did everything around. They had a beautiful house. And one time when I came in, you know, I'd always come in to see him and we would shake hands and he would immediately go to the board and show me what he was working on. And then one time, when he was working at the board and I had said de he turned to me and said 'This is traditional in Norway. We have known one another for a long time. I think it is time for us to say du to each other.' Now, a younger man can never propose that. It had to be the older man. And of course, knowing Hassel as I did, I was quite honored by this because here I was, a foreigner, I was saying du to him, whereas people who had been in his laboratory for years or had not been in the camp or anything were still calling him de. And these guys had been around for twenty years and he still said de to them. But anyways I probably hit it off with him because I always spoke Norwegian to him and he was so pleased that an American would come and learn Norwegian, you see. Anyhow, he invited Lise and I to dinner at his house one time. We went back to Norway after we were married. I've been there a couple of times on sabbatical leaves afterwards, and in one of these cases he invited us to dinner. We had a magnificent dinner at his house. It was all catered. He had ordered it in from the catering outfit - I think SAS was running a catering outfit - and we had a very pleasant evening at Hassel's house.

CP: So people didn't get to the de level with Pauling very often?

KH: Pardon?

CP: People didn't get to the de level with Pauling very often.

KH: Not very often. It's a little hard to tell. It's kind of one way, as I said. He always shook hands and said 'How is Lise doing?' and he would ask me about her and all sorts of things. He would call me Ken but I never felt that he relished me calling him Linus. And everybody had that feeling. I know he visited here when Earl Gilbert was chairman and alive and Gilbert referred to him as Linus and they talked to each other on a name to name basis. But I don't think Gilbert had really met him before. Just don't know.

CP: The Paulings apparently had a swimming pool that was quite popular back in the Caltech days.

KH: Yes. I haven't talked about that have I? Oh, no. Well. Here are a couple of incidents surrounding the swimming pool. I was asked by the Paulings with my then first wife to babysit the children while they went off on a trip. The children were Peter, Linda, and Crellin, and they were early, early teens. Linus had finished and had gone off to medical training. Linus Jr. was often away. So we weren't required to do anything. The kids had to go to school and so on. We just had to be there in the evenings to make sure that they were all there and so on. And so we did that. And they had this swimming pool. Pauling's house had two wings that came together like this and people were fond of saying - I'm not sure if it's true or not - that the angle between the wings was 109 degrees and 28 minutes, which is of course the angle, the tetrahedral bond angle. I don't know if that story is true or not but it was certainly close to it.


Well, down and a little below - the house was built slightly up and down below - they had a swimming pool and the Pauling kids, when their parents were away, had a habit of going around the chemistry department and inviting everybody up to a big party in the swimming pool. And I remember this happening one time and the pool was full of people and the Paulings showed up. And in a short while, Ava Helen came out and said 'Linda, your father and I would like to take a swim. Can you get these people out of here?' There was a hush that fell over the group and we vacated the premises very quickly.

On one of the occasions I was babysitting the kids, I heard a splash. This was late at night, it was 11 o'clock, and I had actually gone to bed. The bedroom faced downhill but I couldn't really see the swimming pool clearly. I think I saw some ripples in it. I heard this splash and I wondered what the hell it was, but I didn't bother to go out and check. The next day there was no sign of anything awry, and on the second day I also heard this splash in the pool, and again I did nothing about it, but in the morning I got up and went into the kitchen to make breakfast and there was a strange man standing there, in the kitchen making breakfast. And this was a guy, again the name is hard for me to come by, a long standing friend of the Paulings, and Pauling has mentioned him by name from the University of Texas. And I guess they asked him if he'd like to stay there.

CP: Lloyd Jeffress?

KH: Pardon?

CP: Lloyd Jeffress?

KH: Yeah, that's right. Jeffress. So we introduced ourselves to each other and it turns out that we had been living in this house, both of us, for three days and this was the first time our paths had crossed. I usually got up early, and so did my then-wife. She went to work and I went to Caltech. And he, apparently, was on vacation and got up later. So we had been living there for three days, and it was on the third day that I met this guy in the same house. Lloyd Jeffress, that's right. So that was the swimming pool.

CP: What do you recall about the children's personalities at that age?

KH: Oh, Peter - very, very vivacious. Linda also. Crellin, less so. He was younger. Quite a bit younger. I don't know how much younger, but at any rate the two older ones, they were almost unfettered. They were just into everything in a good humored way. Very vocal, both of them. Many years later, Lise and I went to Europe and Peter at that time had gotten a position at the University of London, I guess it was, and I called him and he met us in his sports car. At this point he had been pretty heavily into alcohol and had lots of problems. But at any rate, he was enthralled with my wife, Lise, you know, and boy he was sidling up to her all the time and giving her all sorts of compliments. She was laughing at him most of the time. Peter had trouble with, I think he had been divorced once and I don't remember any of the details of his life. I only knew at the end that he was totally incompetent and had gone to Wales and was living in a small house. I got a phone call from him a couple of times from Wales asking about certain events in his father's life. There was a fellow named Herman Branson who had given Pauling some problems regarding priority and discovery of ideas. Peter had called me if I knew Herman Branson and whether I knew anything about this and I didn't.

CP: How about Linda?


KH: Linda I don't know a great deal about her life, where she went to college, what she did. I know she met Barclay [Kamb] when Barkley was a student at Caltech. Pauling was very impressed by Barclay I remember once at a party when I was up there he was asking Barclay some questions and Barclay was answering them. I guess he decided that he was the guy for his daughter. Again, that's just my reaction about it. But Barclay was a nice guy. Of course, they lived in Pasadena, so when we came to Corvallis we didn't see them very much. Barclayused to make an annual or bi-annual trip up to his, as Linda put it, his glacier in Alaska. He was doing measurements on glacier flow and so on. And one time they stopped by and stayed overnight with us. We had a very pleasant evening. And Barclay could play the piano quite well, so he enjoyed sitting at our piano and playing it during the evenings. Afterward, Linda asked her father for something that she could give to Lise and me as a token of appreciation. I have a picture of Pauling together with the famous South African doctor, Doctor...

CP: Schweitzer.

KH: Yeah.

CP: Albert Schweitzer.

KH: Yeah, Albert Schweitzer. With both of them in the picture there. That was sent to me by Linda.

CP: Well, when we reflect back on this period at Caltech it's called 'The Golden Age' at Caltech and I guess just in closing today, what does that mean? The Golden Age at Caltech.

KH: Well, I guess it's properly termed because it was... you know, I was asked to give a lecture, a banquet meeting at a symposium in Texas and the topic suggested to me was 'The Golden Age at Caltech.' That was the title of the talk. So I dredged through all the archives and found out quite a lot about various people and things. But the Golden Age was the age of all this marvelous stuff that Pauling was doing in chemistry and people like Feynman and others were doing in physics. And it was an environment that couldn't be more exciting to a student because you could literally hear a lecture each week by a Nobel Prize winner in some subject or another. Visitors - I mean, I've heard lectures from people like Fermi, who came from Argonne. I've attended lectures by Feynman. Carl Anderson was there; I've heard lectures by him. And I've heard lectures by people in chemistry who came through. So all this appeared when I was a student. And at the same time we knew there was a very active program in X-ray crystallography going on, devoted to providing Pauling, I'm sure, with the fundamentals of structure which would enable him, finally, to formulate the alpha helix. They published seven papers you know. One of them is the alpha helix. That's the famous one. Then there's the pleated sheet and a number of other things that they published at that time. So all of this was going on, and we knew it, when Pauling finally unveiled his alpha helix, and I remember that was a lecture of some showmanship.


Have I told you about that? No? Well, Caltech built these space-filling models - you have some of them here in this special collection - of the alpha helix actually, I think. And I think it was that same model, which is about this high and has red, white and black atoms all distributed through it, representing the various elements. He started to give a lecture on this, and this thing was in the middle of the room but it was covered in a tall paper bag. So he was going to describe the structure, you know, and as he went on people's curiosity grew, they were getting more and more on the edge of their seats. Then he walked over and pulled this thing up about just, oh about that far, and he puts it down and says 'Oh, I forgot to...' and people sort of twittered. He did that once more, and people, you know, laughed. And the third time, he took it off and showed what it was. Everybody applauded. You see, he was a great showman in that respect.

I remember, by the way, a lecture he gave in quantum mechanics. I took a course in quantum mechanics from him. The room was quite full of students. He walked in one time, he carried a big book, which was an introduction to quantum mechanics by him and Bright Wilson. And the normal copy is about that thick, but this copy is about that thick. And it turns out that every facing page was blank so he could write notes in it. And he would lecture from this. Well one day he walked in, and as he got inside (the room was very wide and had blackboards—they were blackboards in those days—from one end to the other) he walked in and picked up a piece of chalk. There were three panels here. He wrote on the upper left hand corner 'NO2,' nitrogen dioxide. Without saying a word, he went across. He began to lecture and he filled up the board over here and continued his lecture, filled up the board over here, and as he got to bottom he had reached the one and said 'Now, you take a NO2 molecule...' and he pointed to what he had already put up there. People the whole hour were wondering what was going to happen but he had it at the precise location where he needed an illustration for what he had been talking about and then had it already written up there. That's the kind of subtle humor that he used to impress the students.

He gave lectures to the undergraduates too and a lot of the undergraduates were a little bit unhappy with this. The better ones were not. The graduate teaching assistants, of which I was one when I first came there, were delighted with these lectures because they were what they were looking for. But the students, he wouldn't pick out topics in the book and talk about them, the book spoke for itself. But he would talk about things associated with him, which were involved, perhaps, in the cutting level of research and he would talk about this and that kind of disappointed a lot of the students who wanted more explanation of what they were reading in the text book. So anyways, as TA's we all liked the lectures very much.

CP: Is there anything else about the Caltech years that we should talk about?

KH: I don't know. We've talked about a lot of the personalities there. There were a lot of people that I haven't mentioned that figured prominently. For example Jerry Donohue is a distinguished crystallographer. He happened to be in England in the same laboratory where Watson and Crick were. And he is said to have made a key observation to them about the configuration that played a big role in their eventually coming to the right structure for DNA.


There were other personalities that I haven't mentioned in chemistry. There are all sorts of names that I could run by, but I don't have anything to say about them. I did some work with a guy named Werner Nowacki from Switzerland. There was a very, very impressive man named Edgar Heilbronner. Do you know that name? Edger came to Caltech also. He was Swiss, I think. He was a Jew who left Germany and had gone to Switzerland just ahead of the Nazis, and he was a superb scientist and he had a wonderful sense of humor. He taught me and my wife how to make cheese fondue. And he went back to Switzerland, rose through the ranks and became a distinguished professor and went to Basel. He and Jack Dunitz were very close, as families, so they had apartments just a couple of doors away from each other. Edgar died few years ago, and I had written to him when I knew that he was ill, and I got a very nice letter back from him, and then a year and a half later I was going to write again, and then a fellow named Eschenmoser showed up to give a lecture in chemistry. And I knew Eschenmoser, I'd given a lecture for him in Zurich and Heilbronner always spoke very highly of Eschenmoser, so I said 'How is Edgar?' And he said 'Oh, he died.' I was shocked. Absolutely shocked. And so I talked to Jack Dunitz about this. Wrote him a letter and said I hadn't heard at all, and he apologized abjectly for not having let me know, but then he said at the end that Edgar had become very discouraged about something. He had become ill. He had lost a leg in an accident - you probably know all about that... oh, well I'll tell you about that in a minute. But he became very discouraged and he was in the hospital and finally, according to Jack, it appears as if he just gave up and he died in the hospital. And in spite them being very, very close - the families - I said, 'So how's Ruth doing?' That's Edgar's wife. And he said 'I don't know. It's amazing because she retreated into herself and has occupied herself solely with her children and grandchildren. We haven't ever heard a word from her.' And he was terribly surprised because they were very close, and she was an open, friendly woman with a great sense of humor. And maybe it just struck her so hard that she just didn't want to have any connection with the past at all. I wrote her a letter and I never had a response, offering my condolences.

Edgar was a very athletic guy, especially in rowing. He was a single scull guy. He rode on a lake in Zurich but he was a budding scientist and he told me all this. He had been out on the town with his girlfriend and they had come by the house where he lived, it was an apartment up here on a hill and this tram came down like this, one of these brand new Swiss trams that have all sorts of safety features on it. This thing came, he was standing, waiting for the tram after having run upstairs to see if the article he had written had been accepted and been published, he was looking at a journal you see. It had not been and he had come back down and was standing on the platform with his then-girlfriend and this tram came down the hill at a high rated speed, out of control, and tipped over like this. I don't know if his companion survived that, and Ruth was not she, I think that's true. I think she was killed. At any rate, his body went through a window of the tram, but one leg was trapped and they had to amputate it. So, when I met him he was using a cane and had a prosthetic device. He wouldn't use crutches. But he was brilliant. Had all sorts of awards in Switzerland for his science later on. It's hard for me to think about these people, knowing them as I did, then thinking about what happened to them. Bad. So that's about all I can tell you, you know there are many, many minor details, but those are the highlights of it all.

CP: Okay, well we will go ahead and close up for today and then next time we will start talking about OSU.

KH: Okay, you want to do more of this?

CP: Yeah.

KH: Okay.



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