Course V --- Chemistry

Last revised August 8, 2015

Please send your comments, remembrances, photos, corrections, and suggestions to the page editor from the Class of 1964: Bill Young

(Note:  The following list catalogs the Chemistry Department faculty members during the four years ending upon our graduation in June, 1964.  Please click on each professor's name for more detailed information on that individual.  Or, scroll below the list for some memorable photos from MIT's Chemistry Department of that era -- personalities, laboratories and even an "infamous" lecture hall.) 

Isadore Amdur

Avery A. Ashdown

James A. Beattie

Glenn A. Berchtold

Klaus Biemann

George H. Bűchi

Arthur Clay Cope

Charles D. Coryell

F. Albert Cotton

Edmund Lee Gamble

Carl W. Garland

Glen E. Gordon

Frederick D. Greene

Leicester Hamilton

Gordon G. Hammes

Louis Harris

Lawrence J. Heidt

David M. Hercules

Herbert O. House

David N. Hume

John W. (Jack) Irvine

Frederick G. Keyes

James L. Kinsey

Richard C. Lord

William R. (Bob) Moore

Avery A. Morton

Irwin Oppenheim

David K. Roe

James W. Ross

George Scatchard

Dietmar Seyferth

John C. Sheehan

David P. Shoemaker

Stephen G. Simpson

Clark C. Stephenson

Walter H. Stockmayer

C. Gardner Swain

Walter R. Thorson

John S. Waugh

George M. Whitesides

5.41 @ 10-250

-  You may recall one of our first assignments in 5.412 -- Organic chemistry lab in room 4-440.
  It was setting up and implementing a simple distillation.  Of course, we didn't have the benefit of ground glass joints.  Rather, we had the dubious distinction of preparing a cork for the assignment.  Using a cork borer wasn't the simplest of tasks, given that the hole had to be straight and the cork couldn't crack.  Well... we got it done and ultimately graduated.

  The infamous Room 4-440 -- Organic chemistry lab for the masses.  Photo courtesy of MIT Museum.

-- A former TA for the organic lab recalled the following: Two of my fellow grad students, upon discovering the "antique" reagent bottles in the store room, decided to make several runs to the Vermont antique stores, cashing in the genuine 19th century chemical bottles for a tidy sum. The replacement costs were believed to have been born by their professors' accounts.

One colleague recalls the "Ashdown Melting Point Technique." It was necessary in organic chemistry to determine "the melting point of an organic crystal by using an oil bath that is being heated carefully with a Bunsen burner. You watched the sample located within a bulb placed in the oil bath next to the thermometer. You wait for the moment that the crystal slumped indicating the start of melting and then  you quickly switch your eye to the thermometer to note the temperature. Well, this approach is rather clumsy and required quite a bit of cleanup afterwards. It was from Prof. Ashdown that I learned that an alternative approach is to sprinkle a bit of the organic solid onto the bulb of the thermometer and wave this back and forth across the Bunsen burner flame but obviously, carefully, so that the crystals do not fall off and so that you can watch where the mercury column rises as the temperature goes up. This approach is certainly fraught with possible pitfalls but is capable of giving you a rough idea of what the melting temperature might be. An error of several degrees is tolerable perhaps for the purpose of identifying the organic material in terms of a particular class."

  Another chemistry lab.  Can anyone recognize the room?  Photo courtesy MIT Museum.

What was the value of analytical chemistry for one student?  He notes that
he did not waste a whole lot of time taking classes such as analytical chemistry and the laboratory for this.  He felt that the experience of doing analytical chemistry, in which he tried to identify a reaction productm was beneficial in the following sense. If he did an experiment resulting in a species that was reported accurately in regard to the weight and so forth, he found that I could get the "right answer" if did the work carefully. If, on the other hand, if he rushed the experiment because of time pressure and so forth, then the answer was apt to be quite wrong. This evoked a feeling of confidence in his work because being careful was likely to trust in the quality of the results. So, if there was something implausible in the result, he knew that he had applied care in producing these results, and then could search further about the mechanism rather than suffer the qualms as to whether there was an artifact that explains the results rather than something physically interesting. He also felt that the instrumentation encountered in 5.149 was valuable to his career development because it was pertinent to his future research endeavors: apply an instrument to observe and follow the changes in wind and temperature of the upper atmosphere at a height of 250 km.

Arthur Clay Cope click here
   (1909 - 1966)

--During our years at MIT, the Chemistry Department was led by the legendary, innovative, accomplished, and somewhat controversial  organic chemist Arthur Clay Cope, who was nearing the end of his 19-year tenure as department head.   He is known for significantly upgrading the Department during his long term, utilizing his impressive capabilities and strong will from a position of power. Upon arriving as Department Head in 1945, he embarked on a program of broadening the strength & reputation of the Chemistry Department beyond physical chemistry and focused his efforts to significantly upgrade the facilities and recruit such highly regarded organic chemists as Jack Roberts, Gardner Swain, George Büchi, and John Sheehan.  In the mid-1960s, there was some concern among the physical chemists regarding the direction the Department should be taking; several of them felt that Cope didn't support their sector sufficiently and preferred to hire faculty members in other areas.

-- The key factor in Professor Cope’s relinquishing his position as Head of the Chemistry Department is related to the change in core curriculum for undergraduates at MIT.  The committee on Curriculum Planning (CCCP -- no, this is not an acronym for the Soviet Union), often referred to as the “Zacharias Committee” in deference to its chairman, recommended in 1964 several changes in the basic course sequence (which were implemented).  For example, each student had been required to take two semesters of chemistry including laboratory work.  The CCCP, among other directives, reduced the obligation to a single semester with no requisite laboratory.  Dr. Cope was strongly opposed to the change was relatively inflexible on the issue.  This didn’t serve him well with MIT’s senior administrators who deemed that a change was necessary at the top of the Chemistry Department; he relinquished the Chairmanship in 1965.   Cope was well known as well outside of MIT not only because of his departmental responsibilities but also for his research in organic chemistry.  Also, he served as a member of the American Chemical Society’s Board of Directors beginning in 1951, was Chairman of the Board in 1959 and 1960, and, in 1961, began his one-year tenure as President of the ACS.

-- Dr. Cope and his wife Beatrice were divorced in 1963.  That same year, Cope married Harriet Packard (who was and had been his secretary).  Arthur Cope died of a heart attack on June 4, 1966, while dining with colleagues from the American Chemical Society in Washington D.C. in which city he was scheduled to attend an ACS Board of Directors meeting.

-- In recognition of his accomplishments (including the discovery of the well-known synthetic reaction known as the "Cope Rearrangement")  and service, the ACS established the prestigious Arthur C. Cope Award, whose purpose is "To recognize outstanding achievement in the field of organic chemistry, the significance of which has become apparent within the five years preceding the year in which the award will be considered." The award consists of $25,000, a medallion, and a $125,000 unrestricted research grant to be assigned by the recipient to any university or nonprofit institution. Approximately 25% of Cope Award recipients since the prize was first awarded in 1973 have had association with MIT (student, post-doc, and/or faculty member).  The disbursements for the award came from Cope's will and the specific implementation came from the Organic Division of the ACS.  There were sufficient funds involved to provide not just the Cope Award itself but also the Cope Scholar awards.  The Cope Scholar awards are focused to recognize and encourage excellence in organic chemistry.  Ten awards (consisting of $5,000, a certificate, and a $40,000 unrestricted research grant to be assigned by the recipient to any university or nonprofit institution) are presented annually and includes recipients in Early, Mid-, and Late Careers.

  Isadore Amdur click here   (1910 - 1970) - Photo courtesy MIT Museum (See group photo below -- taken in 1933)

- Here's an interesting and regrettable sidelight to the career of Professor Amdur, our P-Chem professor who took a strong interest in his students and always seemed to have a smile on his face.  The following is taken from the Harvard Crimson, April 29, 1953, and is exemplary of the unfortunate McCarthy era in Congress.  "The three M.I.T. professors who identified themselves as former Communists last week before the House Un-American Activities Committee last week will be retained as members of the faculty, it was announced last night.  James R. Killian, Jr., Tech president, and Karl Compton, chairman of the M.I.T. corporation, made the announcement in a joint statement last night.  The faculty members are William Ted Martin, head of the mathematics division, Isadore Amdur, associate professor of Chemistry, and Norman Levinson, professor of Mathematics. All three talked willingly of their past associations...

One of our classmates, in his junior year, relates how he was going through a funk about chemistry and missing classes that he should not have missed. The fall semester was a bad time for him. But fortunately, he started to turn things around in the spring semester when he took the second term of physical chemistry and had the pleasure of listening to Prof. Amdur whom he liked very much. Amdur became his senior thesis advisor who invited him to be part of his group. Within the group, he worked with one of Amdur's graduate students, Allan Smith, who was a wonderfully patient person and answered all of his questions as well as he could. Working with the people in Amdur's group gave him the boost needed for him to decide to go into the chemical physics program in graduate school.

Isadore Amdur was the youngest of five children (only one to attend college), raised in Pittsburgh, and a graduate of Univ. Pittsburgh.  He received in PhD In Chemistry at age 21, set out to find a job.  At Harvard, he was greeted with ‘Anybody as young as you are clearly would not be qualified to teach at our institution.’  He walked down the street to MIT, presented himself and received an appointment as Instructor in the Chemistry Dept. at the annual salary of $1800.  He never left.

Amdur’s office in Building 6 (6-128) was the gathering spot for Chemistry Dept. lunches… brown bag sandwiches.  Gathered around the battered oak table would be Amdur, Irwin Oppenheim, Dave Shoemaker, Walter Thorson, Jim Beattie, or whoever was around.  Jim Beattie would make the tea in a beaker atop the Bunsen burner.  He would never use more than one tea bag… and sometimes we suspected it was saved for a second day.  The Amdur Room, one of the first rooms known by name rather than number, was established after his death in 1970 to continue the tradition.

Another student from the Class of 1964 recalled sitting in a Physical Chemistry lecture given by Professor Amdur who discussed the Law of Dulong and Petit, and after he finished he said "well that's the long and short of it."

      Avery A. Ashdown click here    (1891 - 1970)

- Professor Emeritus Ashdown had a heart of gold.  If any student had a problem or issue, all that student needed to do was visit with Professor Ashdown, who often would solve the problem or point the individual in the right direction so it could be resolved.  A real gem.  Professor Ashdown was also a saver.  If you looked into his office while passing by the door, you might have been able to see him reading.  But it wasn't easy.  His office was filled to the brim with piles of articles, journals, etc.  How he found anything in particular remains a mystery.   Among his successful graduate students is R. B. Woodward, the well known organic chemist who taught at Harvard and was the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize for his achievements in organic synthesis, especially of complex natural molecules.  Building W-1 on the MIT Campus has had several monikers in its history, including the Graduate House (where Ashdown served as headmaster) and, from 1964 to 2008, Ashdown House.  In 2008, a new Ashdown House was opened as a graduate dormitory; it is located on Albany St and is designated Building NW35.  Old Ashdown House was renovated and reopened in 2011 as an undergraduate dormitory -- Maseeh Hall. 

The Ashdown High School Chemistry Examination Contest is an annual event sponsored by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society. Named in honor of Prof. Ashdown, the exam is open to students in local high schools in the NESACS and the top scorers will be eligible to take the qualifying exam for the Unites States Chemistry Olympiad Team.

     James A. Beattie click here  (1895 - 1981)   - Photo courtesy MIT Museum  (See group photo below -- taken in 1933)
-- Professor Emeritus of Physical Chemistry

-- According to one former student, "Those who entered as physical chemistry graduate students in 1964 took a classical thermodynamics class which was taught by James Beattie. We were all very impressed because we had heard of the Beattie-Bridgman equation of state. In 1964, Prof. Beattie had us using a textbook published in 1932 – apparently not much had changed in the intervening 32 years."

Glenn A. Berchtold click here   (1932 - 2008)   - Photo courtesy MIT Museum

-  One former graduate student noted that working for Glenn was a real pleasure. Newly arrived grad students interviewed each organic faculty member to select problems of interest as part of obtaining a PhD. Glenn presented some interesting aliphatic heterocyclic synthesis possibilities and we settled on a disulfur bridged compound that looked intriguing. After spending one year attempting to create a molecule that defied the laws of chemical bonding, we decided to give it up and try for another approach. Glenn later said that he gives this disulfide challenge to any newbie that will try it but nobody has ever been able to make itGlenn was a gentle soul, probably too nice for the politics of the Chemistry Department. He was patience and supportive of his grad students efforts. A lab mate of mine took 6+years and Glenn never despaired of his eventual release.

-- According to one former advisee, Dr. Berchtold was particularly generous and helpful to students. When his doctoral advisor, Chis Walsh, left the chemistry department and moved to Harvard, Professor Berchtold was very kind and agreed to serve as his official Ph.D. advisor at MIT despite the fact that there was minimal overlap between the student's research and his new advisor's interests.

-- Another grad student recalled that Glenn Berchtold was the department’s executive officer (notice the use of a military sounding title for the position), and his main job seemed to be preventing any of the students from ever coming in contact with Prof. Cope. He also taught a great course on interpreting proton NMR, UV, and IR spectra.

-- One of Glenn's grad students wrote that "Glenn was an excellent chemist, but his intensity for chemistry carried over into other endeavors, most notably his love of fishing. He had a place on Cape Cod where he went to escape the frenetic MIT life; his students were fortunate to be introduced to this getaway early in their MIT education. Glenn insisted that his students and postdocs go deep-sea fishing with him, telling them to be ready to go at a very early hour, sometimes even 3AM. He would pick us up, take us to the boat, and pay for the expense. After we left MIT and went on with our lives, we kept the fishing tradition going in the form of an annual weekend trip leaving from Glenn’s Cape Cod home. This ritual continued for 27 years until his death in 2008....... Another of Glenn's wonderful attributes was his caring and generous nature, especially with his family. A little known fact was that he lost his brother and his brother’s wife in a train accident. Glenn took in his three nephews and raised them along with his own three children. What remains is the memory of a man, a chemist, a fisherman, a father and husband who balanced his love of chemistry, fishing, and family."

       Klaus Biemann click here    (1926 - 2016)   - Photo courtesy MIT Museum

-- One graduate student noted that Klaus Biemann was an Austrian gentleman.  "When he first acquired a secretary, we all noticed that he could not keep himself from standing up whenever she entered his office.  For graduate students, he was a sensational adviser and supporter.  When I joined the group, in 1962, he had already written a very successful book and spoke fluent, idiomatic English.  But with a marked accent.  In the lab, we would speak to each other saying "zis," and "zat," apparently never realizing that someday we would slip, and utter a “Biemannism” in his presence.  We must have, but I don't remember any bad results.  One of my favorite memories is of a moment when I went to him with a report of the total failure of a key measurement.  He shrugged, and said "Vell, zat's life on ze prairie."  It was as if he'd hired Woody Allen as a writer!"

-- In 2001 he was a recipient of the Fisher Award of the American Chemical Society for his contributions to analytical chemistry.

-- The following account was provided by one of Professor Biemann’s Ph.D. students: “Klaus Biemann started at MIT in 1957 as an Instructor and was a full professor about 5 years later. He more or less invented the field of organic mass spectrometry and published an important book on the subject in 1962. By 1964, he had a very large research group consisting of 20-30 people from every corner of the earth. His laboratory in 1964 was in the basement of Building 2 – mass spectrometers at the time were so heavy that they were almost always sited on the lowest floor of a building. By the mid-1960s, Prof. Biemann had several large grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and with this lavish external funding, he was able to rent his very own computer (an IBM 1800) and buy several more mass spectrometers. The requisite space was found in the basement of Building 56, which had just opened. Having your own computer in 1966 simplified the life of his students and staff; no longer did they have to walk over to Building 21 and leave a deck of punched cards for an overnight run on the IBM 7094. Having your own computer made debugging a program much less painful and made the entire group more productive. Prof. Biemann was Austrian and was always dressed in a suit and tie – his “casual” attire was a blue seersucker suit and a western string tie (see the photo of him with the Viking instrument). He was (and still is) a courtly gentleman, who went out of his way to be polite to all of his students, post-docs, and staff. Since he lived at 100 Memorial Drive at the time, he was able to be in the laboratory in the evenings and expected everyone to be there working too. Those of his students who went on to an academic career learned how important it was to have lots of funding for your research program. Big grants solve most political problems in most academic departments. Biemann also taught his students how to deal with publishing their work in the peer-reviewed literature. For example, he used to say that if a reviewer complained about some point being unclear, it was the author’s fault not the reviewer’s.”

--   CLICK HERE for Professor Biemann's write-up describing his Mass Spec group and his career in the field

        George H. Büchi click here    (1921 - 1998) - Photos #1 and #2 courtesy MIT Museum

-- Professor Bűchi was a Swiss-born scientist known for his creative work in organic chemistry, especially relating to photochemistry as well as to the structural elucidation and synthesis of complex, naturally-occurring molecules.

-- Often in the early 1960s, several grad students, post-docs, and even some undergraduates (all of whom specialized in organic chemistry) would take the MTA (as it was called then) from Kendall to Harvard Square. The purpose was to attend group meetings sponsored by Prof. R. B. Woodward (1965 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) and his team – a real learning experience. The seats in the first row of the room were informally reserved for senior faculty members Prof. Woodward (Harvard), Prof. George Bűchi (MIT), Prof. Jim Hendrickson (Brandeis), and Prof. V. Georgian (Tufts). During the presentations, a reaction mechanism or synthetic transformation was identified as a problem . Then a detailed discussion would develop with many ideas and solutions being put forward. When the topic was exhausted, Dr. Woodward would typically turn to Bűchi and say “What do you think, George?” As an aside, this can be seen as recognition of the "open group meeting" ethos and the “collegial generosity” of Woodward, this legendary Harvard chemist (who was an MIT graduate).

-- A former grad student of Professor Bűchi recalls that, “In George’s earlier days at MIT, he was a smoker, although he quit "cold turkey" in the mid-1960s and claimed that it was one of the easiest habits he had discarded. His custom was to visit the lab each day around 9:30 am and again in late afternoon when it was expected that there would be progress to report. The format was invariably the same. George would take up position at the end of a bench, light up (yes, in those days there was no prohibition on smoking in the lab), lean against the sink and await word on the latest results while he tapped cigarette ash into the sink. On one famous occasion, it turned out that a substantial amount of lab glassware had been washed with acetone in the sink that George favored and, upon tapping his cigarette ash into that sink, a huge sheet of flame shot upwards. Fortunately, fire extinguishers were handy and no serious damage ensued, but a startled George made a quick exit and did not show up again for several days. When he did reappear, it was apparent his hair had been singed. To my knowledge, he never smoked in the lab again.”

-- One student remarked that Prof. Bűchi was both a hunter and skier. “One time he had his students uncrate a very smelly bear he had shot on one of his many expeditions to Alaska and which he had delivered to the MIT Chemistry Department.” Separately, it was noted, “Dr. Bűchi sometimes sponsored group ski trips to Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, occasions which not only enabled him to exhibit his considerable skiing talent (he was a junior champion in his youth in Switzerland but broke a leg which resulted in the limp that always characterized his gait) but which also revealed a strong interest in attractive young ladies with ‘skills similar to his own’.” It’s not clear whether “skills” refer to those as a scientist, skier, or perhaps something else.

Charles D. Coryell click here    (1912 - 1971)   -  Photos #2 and #3 courtesy MIT Museum

- One MIT graduate student, who entered MIT in 1956, recalls Professor Coryell, noting that Charles (or Coryell), as everyone called him, was a fellow who truly deserved the appellation “larger than life.” He was brilliant in the same way as his own post-doc adviser Linus Pauling (at Caltech), with a mind that seemingly never forgot any number, whether it be of a radioactive lifetime or of the sequence of nuclear decay products. His specialty was the relatively new field of Nuclear Chemistry, into which he came after working on various uranium and plutonium projects — actions which, before too many more years, would shorten his life from the damage they had caused to his body. But that sad change was still about 15 years in the future when this grad student first met him. Charles seemed to take it for granted that everyone else shared his remarkable intelligence. He would talk to you as if, of course, you knew all this chemistry he was rattling off. He could not help being brilliant, but he seemed quite unaware that not everyone had this gift; he really seemed to think you were his equal. He had many political causes that embattled him with powerful national figures — Senator Dodd, for example — but he was ever optimistic that he could, through his efforts, bring needed changes. Yet, he would be involved in many projects, scientific and political, and multitasking was quite apparent during visits to his office. There is even a photograph of Coryell involved in three conversations simultaneously -- with his secretary, a person on the phone and another visitor. When students entered his office, he always seemed to be genuinely interested in them and their personal arrays of "little grad-school issues" such as what courses to take, what research to do, and what were their thoughts about a new paper of John Bardeen, the co-inventor of the transistor. Charles remained a good friend to most students regardless of whether he was their thesis adviser. Coryell was instrumental in helping this same graduate student, who did his Ph.D. dissertation with another faculty member, find a post-doctoral position. Approximately 10 years after earning his graduate degree, the former MIT student noted at a dinner with Charles that the professor was not at all well and had undergone the amputation that signaled the start of the end of his life. But Coryell remained, even then, the optimistic, enthusiastic fellow that the grad student first met in 1956, ebullient with ideas of how the world could be better run and what chemical and nuclear reactions might be used for what purpose.

         F. Albert Cotton click here
   (1930 - 2007)   - Photo #1 - courtesy MIT Museum; Photo #3 with Prof. Seyferth

- Cotton was outspoken, renowned in his field, received many awards and accolades, and spent the bulk of his career at Texas A&M.  One of our classmates recalled Al Cotton, who lectured in the introductory chemistry 5.01 and 5.02, as follows. "He was an awful lecturer. He coughed or cleared his throat at least once a minute. It was so distracting that we used to count the coughs and bet on the number.  Had him later in a seminar course on metal-ligand theory and he was great with a small group.”  Maybe some of your remember his seminal textbook, Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, co-written with Geoffrey Wilkinson.

- There is apparently an outstanding question regarding Professor Cotton's death in 2007.  According to the College Station, Texas, CBS affiliate KTBX, "Unanswered questions surrounding the death of legendary Texas A&M professor, F. Albert Cotton, has sparked an investigation. Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk confirmed Monday, his office is investigating the death of Cotton who died in February. Kirk said Cotton was hospitalized in October after his family thought he suffered a heart attack. That's when doctors noticed suspicious injuries. Kirk says they are investigating the origin of those injuries."

- Another classmate has some interesting recollections.  Cotton was describing electronic orbitals and bonding:  
"When it comes to bonding, folks, it is what is up front that counts." And also, "An sp orbital bonds good like an orbital should."

- Still another student took his Advanced Inorganic Chemistry course. "Although we did not bet on the number of Cotton tics, we did try to enumerate them one class period. We stopped counting the tics when each had passed 100 and we were not yet through the lecture period.  Also, it should be noted that the previous commentator neglected to mention his ‘um’s to go with the throat clearing and pushing his glasses back up.  He was indeed a terrible lecturer.

- One individual provided a Cotton quote after a number of us in the lecture hall proposed impossible chelation isomers on an inorganic chemistry quiz: "The intelligence of MIT undergraduates is vastly overrated." Here's another comment from Cotton, regarding Linus Pauling: "You gotta admit, the guy's smart, but he does some kooky things."  Along these lines, one grad student remarked that "Al Cotton had a magnificent, paneled wood office just off the old, relatively messy inorganic labs on the top floor of the chemistry building, and that the contrast was spectacular."  

- Among his many honors and awards, one standout was winning the Welch Reward in 1994 for his major impact in the field of inorganic and structural chemistry, especially in metal-metal bonding in organometallic compounds.

  CLICK HERE for information on Prof. Cotton's autobiography.

Edmund Lee Gamble click here  (1906 - 1990)  

Professor Gamble, an inorganic chemist, loved working with students and ensured all incoming freshmen received a solid foundation in Chemistry. He served as the Faculty Resident of Baker House from 1962 to 1968.

       Carl W. Garland click here  (b. 1929)

-- Professor Garland said that he offers his "best wishes for your 50th year celebration. I knew all the chem majors (and many chem engineers) quite well since Dave Shoemaker and I were then in charge of the p chem lab. Indeed, the first edition of our "Experiments in Physical Chemistry" came out in 1962; so you were the first class to use this book, which is now in its ninth edition with Joseph Nibler, Keith Stine (MIT PhD chemistry) and Judy Kim (MIT BS chemistry) as coauthors.  MIT students have always been impressive, but those of the early 60's were especially so!" One grad student faulted Prof. Garland, who taught a course in statistical mechanics, for spending a few minutes at the start of each class explaining why the textbook was wrong. Others, assuredly, learned from such experiences.

-- A former graduate student recalls some of Garland’s early work, including research on the IR spectra of CO chemisorbed on Ni and Rh catalytic surfaces. “The use of IR spectroscopy to understand adsorbed species became one of the major methods in the next 50 years in the study of catalytic chemistry which has now produced theoretic activities of thousand and thousand studies in the field.” Later work focused on order-disorder phenomena in crystals, liquids, and especially liquid crystals. In addition to research, Garland had a significant involvement in MIT’s graduate and undergraduate education program, “notably his work with David Shoemaker and many TAs in developing modern experiments for the p-chem lab.”

-- One of Garland's colleagues in the academic world noted that he is knowledgeable about an enormous range of topics and is a very detail-oriented individual.  He taught his protégées a lot about how to make careful and accurate scientific measurements."

     Glen E. Gordon click here

-- One former student recalls that Prof. Gordon, a leading nuclear chemist, really did not like to go into a lab with radiation in it! “When I was doing my fission runs and really "hot" samples would be coming into my lab, Glen was in the other end of our building -- far away from the radioactivity. I could not even get him to come into the counting room to look at ɣ-ray spectra on oscilloscopes; rather I had to hand plot the 4096-channel (i.e., 212) spectrum and bring my plot to his office! We did not have computers to do that back then. Dr. Gordon would never come to see me in the lab. Instead, he would send our secretary to tell me to come to his office when I could, and if it wasn't fast enough, he would send her back, meaning COME HERE NOW!!! All meetings were in his office. He wanted to have control and felt comfortable behind his desk.

-- Prof. Gordon was said to like beer parties and virtually the only times he came to his students’ offices was when he attended such events. Originally, noted one grad student, “we researchers began having beer parties in one of the offices, and he was very much against our wasting time. But when the head of the Nuclear Chemistry Division, Charles Coryell, came to the parties and told all of his advisees to be there, Glen decided it was OK. And then he became a regular, demonstrating his strong engagement with his students!” In fact, it is alleged that even when Prof. Gordon, who had an excellent sense of humor, moved to the University of Maryland, he insisted on having beer parties there as well.


Frederick D. Greene click here  (b. 1927)

- One Class of 1964 colleague had the good fortune of joining Frederick D. Greene’s research group for his senior thesis; some of you may recall Dr. Greene's nickname, “Free Radical Freddie,” which is a testament to one of the areas he helped pioneer.  Among various topics, his group was studying Electron Spin Resonance of organic molecules, and this student's senior thesis was aimed at synthesizing adamantane and its derivatives for this work.  Professor Greene was a great teacher and mentor and remains a good friend to our class colleague today; he always warmly welcomed his entire family on their return visits to the ‘Tute.

--One graduate student (analytical major) noted:   “I remember him very fondly.  I did poorly on the organic qualifier and therefore had the good luck to be required to take 5.43.  I remember Prof. Greene’s exams with averages in the 30s and lectures that didn't quite finish on time.  We'd all be sitting there, waiting for the denouement, while the next class would be piling up outside the door.  He was a wonderful lecturer and teacher.

-- One former student noted that Prof. Greene's enthusiasm for organic chemistry, and especially organic reaction mechanisms, was infectious. “Each week we had a time set aside where I would meet him in his office and we would review my progress in the research lab. During that time we would often try to work out reaction mechanisms in an attempt to explain the (sometimes bizarre) experimental results that had been obtained. I fondly remember one such instance in which an unexpected reaction product had formed. Dr. Greene took out a paper and pencil and began to sketch out a plausible step-by-step reaction mechanism. When he arrived at the end of the mechanism, he suddenly stopped, looked at me with an expression of concern, and said ‘That WAS the product that you obtained, wasn't it?’ I nodded. He looked back at the paper and said ‘Good.’ Then he cracked a smile and, while still looking at the paper, said ‘Well, I suppose that even if had been some other compound that was formed, I'm sure I could come up with a reaction mechanism to explain it.’ I laughed heartily, but also knew that he was entirely correct.”

-- A graduate student advisee recalls that: “All chemistry graduate students had to pass some number of ‘cumulative exams’ on the quest to obtain a PhD. These tests were given monthly in the evenings. One of the chemistry professors would apparently dream up a series of questions, put them on paper, and, voila, that would be the test. We would seldom be provided any background material or have any idea of what to expect on the test. Each student entered the exam room and attacked the problems with whatever basic knowledge he/she had. I went to one exam and quickly realized I had absolutely no idea how to do any of the problems except possibly one portion of a single question. With much embarrassment, I left the exam room and never handed in my test paper. A week or two later, the exam grades came out and Dr. Greene noticed that my name was not listed. He called me to his office and said ‘Did you not know there was a cumulative exam?’ I told him not only was I aware, but that I had indeed attempted the exam. He then asked, ‘Then why do I not have a score for you?’ I sighed and then confessed, ‘I attempted the exam and couldn't make headway on any of the problems. Rather than looking like a complete idiot to the professor that graded the exam, I decided not to hand it in at all.’ He stared at me for what seemed like an eternity with a look of confusion on his face. Then he finally said very quietly while nodding, ‘I see merit in that thinking.’ That was the last that was ever spoken about that particular test.”

  Leicester Hamilton click here  (1893-1976)  

-- Prof. Hamilton, a well-known analytical chemist, graduated from MIT in 1914 and joined the faculty a year later. In 1958, he was named Professor Emeritus.

-- During World War II, Prof. Hamilton was appointed acting chairman of the department when Chairman Keyes shifted his focus to research related to the war effort. Hamilton provided valuable services to the department and never intended to stay in this position. After Cope was brought to MIT in 1945 by President Karl Taylor Compton and took over as Chemistry Department chairman, Hamilton became Executive Officer, for many years keeping track of day-to-day items that Chairman Cope preferred to delegate. For example, Hamilton was a key contributor in allotting space assignments. One of his roles was being adviser to most of the undergraduates who were chemistry majors – a significant responsibility that was ultimately spread among a group of professors.

-- Hamilton was said to be effective, pragmatic, and an enjoyable individual with whom to interact, although he apparently didn't have a notable sense of humor. He was into boating and would often, in the summer, sail to his place in Maine. One colleague recalls an amusing incident. While on the dock, a power boat – captained by someone considered to be a “bigwig” -- pulled up to Hamilton and asked, in an arrogant manner, “Where is ‘Mr. Smith’s’ house?” The professor provided the directions. A short time later, the person returned to the dock, noting annoyingly that there was nobody home; he then climbed into his boat and took off. At that point, one of Hamilton’s friends said, “You knew there weren’t home.” Hamilton, who had been miffed by the boater’s attitude, replied “He didn’t ask me if they were home."

-- One very tragic event lends additional insight into Hamilton’s personality. A very close relative was killed in an auto accident, obviously a traumatic catastrophe. Hamilton accepted the fate, was not overcome for an extended period, and, instead, moved on. There was nothing he could do about it and he didn’t allow the disaster to devastate his life.

-- One grad student recalled that, in the late 1950s, he first met Prof. Hamilton – the Department of Chemistry’s Executive Officer -- when he discovered a note on his desk asking him to come to Hamilton’s office. He obviously wondered why the department's Executive Officer wanted to see him, a graduate student. It proved to be interesting since the student was being asked to tutor the child of a member of the Institute's administration. Prof. Hamilton was congenial and the “new tutor” remembers talking with him on several other occasions.

-- Professor Hamilton is perhaps best known for the storied textbook Calculations of Quantitative Chemical Analysis, co-authored with fellow faculty member Stephen Simpson and introduced in 1922. (The 1922 edition was based on the 1897 Quantitative Chemical Analysis, which was written by MIT’s Chemistry Department Chairman {1901-1922} Prof. Henry P. Talbot who utilized the book as source material for an introductory course in Analytical Chemistry.) The name of Hamilton and Simpson’s book was subsequently changed to Calculations of Analytical Chemistry as a result of the expanded scope of the tome. The 7th, and final edition was copyrighted in 1969 (47 years after the 1st edition) and listed three authors – Hamilton, Simpson, and David W. Ellis.

  Gordon G. Hammes click here
  (b. 1934)

- Professor Hammes in his own words: “I came to MIT as an Instructor in 1960 and was probably the last regular faculty member to be hired as an Instructor. The next year I became an Assistant Professor. The undergraduate and graduate students and the faculty were incredible. What a treat! My office and lab consisted of one room. Walter Stockmayer was instrumental in hiring me, but the person who mentored me was Izzy Amdur, a remarkable man. Many of the physical chemists ate lunch in his office, including Carl Garland and John Waugh who became good friends. If not in his office, Izzy and I went across the street to an unremarkable lunch place. We were very interested in kinetics and eventually wrote a quite successful book, Principles of Chemical Kinetics, which was also translated into Japanese. My first teaching assignment was P-Chem Lab, along with Carl Garland and Dave Shoemaker who wrote a great text book for the course. Later I also taught in the P-Chem course itself. I had several outstanding undergraduates doing research in my laboratory. Among them were Dan Kochavi, Jim Bahr, and Jeff Steinfeld who later became a Professor of Chemistry at MIT. I should also mention that one of the students I taught in P-Chem, Hans Christian Anderson, became a Professor at Stanford and was my daughter’s PhD research supervisor. I had three particularly outstanding grad students at MIT, Jim Erman who became a Professor at Northern Illinois University, Tom Lewis (Physics) who became a very successful executive in industry, and Paul Schimmel (Biochemistry) who became a Professor at MIT and later at Scripps; Paul was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and co-founded multiple biotech startups. Jack Buchanan, a Professor of Biochemistry was a great help to me in my research program. He steered Paul Schimmel to me, as well as Renata Cathou, a postdoc who became a Professor at Tufts and eventually retired to become an art consultant. Wonderful years at MIT! I left in 1965 to become a Professor at Cornell University."

--  One of Dr. Hammes’ doctoral students entered MIT as a medical school dropout in February of 1963, enrolling in the Division of Biochemistry (then part of the Department of Biology). About a year later, he attended an informal evening lecture by Gordon Hammes, arranged by the Division of Biochemistry, in part in the spirit of building a bridge between the Biology and Chemistry Departments. Gordon, at 28, was already a tenured Associate Professor. The student was enthralled by his lecture, especially his elaboration of relaxation spectroscopy of biochemical reactions, in the millisecond to microsecond time range. He then chose Hammes for his PhD adviser—both for the area of research and for his crisp, clear-minded thinking. He was given permission to “cross over” and work in his Chemistry laboratory in Building 6. In 1965, Prof. Hammes had an offer of a full professorship In Chemistry at Cornell University. Hammes told his grad student that, for his own well-thought out reasons, he would accept the position in Ithaca. He offered to help the student find another faculty mentor at MIT or to facilitate a move with him to Cornell. The PhD candidate’s heart was at MIT. But he loved working with Hammes and figured he could finish his thesis at Cornell and come back to MIT for his defense. That is what happened. Ultimately, the two published 6 papers together. But what the student remembers most were the times they stood at a blackboard in the laboratory and Hammes taught him so much on a one-on-one basis. While the student often argued with his advisor, he did not do well in those arguments. Hammes, he recalled, “has a deep analytical mind. More than that, he is a great human being. I would work with Gordon again if I had to do it over.”

      Louis Harris click here   (1897 - 1985)   - Photo courtesy MIT Museum  (See group photo below -- taken in 1933)
- Professor Emeritus of Physical Chemistry

--One graduate student noted that he took a course in quantum mechanics from Prof. Harris, who would come in each day and read material from yellowed, tattered, 3 X 5 cards. This approach didn't seem to enhance one's learning experience in this topic, and a few students left the physical chemistry division for greener (or at least clearer) pastures.

   Lawrence J. Heidt click here  (1904 - 1983)

-- Professor Heidt overcame limitations placed on him after falling from a tree at an early age. He completed his formal education at the University of Wisconsin and became a very well known physical chemist, despite suffering from a limp throughout his professional life. An undergraduate student noted that Professor Heidt “was my teacher of chemistry in ’39-40, and I admired his scholarship and energy. I still remember his walking to the institute after a heavy snowfall and no public transportation, proving his dedication. 

-- Some people believe chemistry is rocket science, but in the case of Professor Heidt, it literally was! Dr. Heidt was a physical chemist who focused on photochemistry and conversion of sunlight into a practical source of energy. With regard to rocket science, he developed and patented a method for the stabilization of ozone such that ozone can be stored and transported at a relatively low rate of decomposition, perhaps permitting this explosive gas to be utilized as a component of rocket fuel. This would allow ozone to replace oxygen and provide considerably more “lift” per kilogram of fuel.

-- Utilizing sunlight along with perchloric acid, Prof. Heidt demonstrated the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen so that the mixture could be burned to produce energy. The waste product would be water that can be fed back into the system to create a continuous loop powered by solar energy. Dr. Heidt, who was way ahead of his time in conducting such reserach, received a note of appreciation regarding this work from General Jimmy Doolittle, USAF, as seen in the photograph above. 


     David M. Hercules click here    (b. 1932)
- Professor Hercules, a specialist in analytical spectroscopy, contributed several comments about his years at MIT. “I spent a total of nine years at the 'tute, three as a graduate student and six as a faculty member. As a student, I learned the importance of basic research and how it is carried out at a first-rate institution. My thesis adviser, the late L. B. (Buck) Rogers showed me how to run a research group of multiple people in a very efficient and personal way. He was responsible for my knowledge of analytical chemistry. My second thesis adviser was the late Richard. C. Lord who educated me in the basics of spectroscopy. They became and remained personal friends until their deaths. As a faculty member, and a member of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, I had the tools and support that allowed me to chart new directions in analytical spectroscopy. Being from MIT made it easier to contact people about research-related topics. For example, I was able to recruit as my mentor the late Prof. Kai Siegbahn from Uppsala (Sweden) to establish a program in electron spectroscopy of surfaces. The infrastructure at the "tute made it possible to have a laboratory appropriate for this very sensitive instrument. Another contact, of a different type, was the late Arthur. C. Cope who became one of my three mentors in the area of department administration: how to be a chairman and not have it kill your research program. All in all, I benefitted greatly from both MIT experiences.”

-- An undergraduate colleague of Prof. Hercules at their alma mater Juniata College recalls a couple of early “experiments” carried out by Dave in an effort to further his education and that of other classmates. He created a “pyrotechnic event” on Olde Lion’s Back, a small hill behind the campus. The Lion’s Back explosion broke windows in the hospital several miles away, and Dave experienced “official accommodations” that night away from his dormitory room……. Other less spectacular flirtations with the local law were subsequently carried out by proud members of the Lion’s Back Scientific Society (a group initiated by Dave on campus). Often these involved studies of the confined hydrolysis of alkali metals carried out in stout leaky containers thrown into the Juniata River. The undergraduate colleague then continued, "Dr. Hercules was a laboratory instructor in quantitative analysis and his work first demonstrated that he really was a natural leader in areas far removed from evasion of the law. Here was an individual really in love with chemistry. Even then, as a student instructor, Dave was a super-inspirational person dedicated to teaching and learning - which continues today as his life influences many students and colleagues."

- In 1986 Dr. Hercules was a recipien
t of the Fisher Award of the American Chemical Society for his contributions to analytical chemistry.

Herbert O. House click here
    (1929 - 2013)

- According to one of his advisees, Professor House was a wonderful teacher, and a gentleman, both in and out of class. His lectures were models of clarity and his advice about research was to the point and useful. Another student noted that he was an excellent teacher, but somewhat curt in manner. One grad student remembers House as a demanding, but always polite and understanding. A couple of years after receiving his doctorate, this former student visited the Professor in Cambridge and kept calling him "Dr. House," as he had when a grad student. "Dr. House" then asked him to stop that and just call him "Herb!"

- One classmate recalls that, after reading some of our lab reports for qualitative organic analysis which stated there was "nothing left" after a few lab manipulations, House remarked: "Gentlemen, you cannot destroy matter with the equipment you have (in the lab) upstairs."

- And who could forget House’s infamous Advanced Organic Chemistry final exam? He was rumored to put his current research problems in synthesis in exams to see if he could find a kernel of a new approach. As many will recall, we all had learned by then one of the cardinal rules of test-taking -- to skip the problems we could not solve immediately and go on to the next problem to get as many of the easier problems completed before time expired. So the ‘bell’ went off, the exam was turned over, and all began reading. After a short time, there was the sound of the exam page being turned, essentially simultaneously by all. After another short time, all turned the next page, and titters began. After the third page turn we all erupted in laughter. No one know how to solve any of these suckers. The proctor/TA was very upset at the unbridled laughter and shouted for us to be quiet. We returned to the exam, trying to get at least some partial credit. The class average was 19.

-- Another remembers him as a very tough and terse individual, but not without a certain sarcastic wit. One anecdote that has stuck with me all these years is that, on the first day of class, he spelled out his rigorous expectations. "There is only one excuse for missing a class," he said, "a death in the family." Then after a brief pregnant pause, he added, "or your own!"

-- The highlight of one student’s junior year was Herb House’s qualitative organic analysis, 5.428. It was a challenging semester in 4-440. The first half of the term wasn’t that terribly difficult, and the student was able to identify three relatively straightforward unknowns. The three assigned to him in the latter half of the semester were much tougher, and the student admitted that his performance wasn’t exactly stellar. Still, he received an “A” in the course. What he didn’t know then, and didn’t learn until many years later, was that House determined your grade after the first three unknowns. He either boosted the egos of the laggards by giving them easy unknowns in the second half of the term, or challenged the superior students with tough ones. That explained why another classmate got azobenzene as one of his latter unknowns, a compound which yielded a rainbow of colored derivatives easily used for identification.

-- Dr. House left MIT in 1970 to join the faculty at Georgia Tech, from which he retired in 1990.

David N. Hume click here    (1917 - 1998)

- The late Theodore William Gilbert, Jr. (known as Bill), who received in BS from MIT in 1951, discusses his thesis adviser Dr. Hume and how the Course 5 syllabus was different during his years at the ‘tute. “The chemistry curriculum at MIT was a little different than most in that they had a required summer term for all chemistry majors – not optional – but required. You had to come and take a full summer term of qualitative analysis based on the old hydrogen sulfide scheme. That was between your freshman and your sophomore year. Then in the sophomore year we had two full semesters of quantitative analysis, so there was a heavy emphasis on analytical chemistry. The professors in these courses were David Hume and another professor, Lockhart Rogers – though he was universally known as Buck Rogers. They were young, dynamic men, very active in research, very productive and, of course, they went on to very distinguished careers. The object of taking the summer term was to free up your senior year from a heavy load of courses and to have a full year of research experience. So I worked with Professor Hume that senior year on a research project which happened to be electrochemistry, which was something I didn’t go into later. The project involved the polarography of cyclooctatetraene, which happened to be a compound that Arthur Cope, who was head of the department and a distinguished organic chemist, had been working on. Hume, being a young analytical chemist, told me that he was going to convince Cope that polarography was good for something. So we studied the polarography of cyclooctatetraene. It was an interesting project.”

-- Dave was hand-picked by Robert Oppenheimer to work on the Manhattan Project and spent the war years at Oak Ridge, TN.  In 1963 he was a recipien
t of the Fisher Award of the American Chemical Society for his contributions to analytical chemistry.

-- One graduate student noted that "Dave Hume taught one of the most useful MIT courses: Statistics for Analytical Chemists. This course brought home the necessity of using good statistical tools when dealing with chemical data – a concept eschewed by physical chemists. He was also a big help to some of us when we began teaching analytical chemistry ourselves."

-- Dr. Hume was described by one advisee as being a very mild-manner man who never showed much emotion. This was fine with the student who thought that, had Hume been a bit intense, he probably would have gotten on his advisor's nerves.

-- A former grad student noted as follows: "One episode stands out in my mind that I repeated often to my own students. I was having some difficulty with my research and went to his office for advice. He listened politely but didn’t offer any suggestions as to what I should do next. Subsequently, I did some literature searching and found the answer to my problem. I rushed back to Prof. Hume’s office to break the news to him. As I was about to tell him what I had found in the literature, he said "Was it the 19xx article by so-and-so in the xyz journal?" I stood with my mouth open and realized that he knew the answer all the time, but was not going to spoon-feed me. It was a lesson that I never forgot and certainly made me a better scientist

-- One advisee recalled different episode that demonstrated, in line with the previous incident, that Prof. Hume expected much from his students. When his mentor was about to leave for England for the summer, he came to the student and said that when he returned, he wanted his thesis on his desk! The apprentice was happy that his advisor felt that the research project achieved its goal and that awarding the Ph.D. degree was merited. 

  John W. (Jack) Irvine click here
  (1913 - 1998)

-- One grad student has fond memories of his thesis advisor Professor Irvine, known even to his face as Jack. The professor was from Missouri, and, as he sat in his reclining chair, with booted feet outstretched, puffing deliberately on his pipe, his slow drawl could be intimidating. Most famously, among his graduate students, was his remark one day to a poor fellow student, also an "inorganiker," probably during an oral exam: "Mister … 'Smith' …(puff) . I …. don’t …. think … you .., know …(puff) ... what …you're … talking … about.” This sort of intimidation became the centerpiece of a skit that Irvine's students put on at the annual Icepickers gathering and faculty roast. The overawed "Mister Smith" reversed roles and played the part of Black Jack, interviewing a helpless graduate student being led down a logical path to a nonsensical conclusion. Actually Jack was just upholding high standards of scholarship. Irvine was also a stickler when it came to technical writing, bestowing the need for care in both presentation and grammar. He cultivated the impression that he did not suffer fools kindly. After this grad student with fond memories was able to overcome his intimidation and shaking knees, he confessed that he came to appreciate Irvine as a very cultured gentleman, who raised orchids, appreciated fine Persian carpets, and could hold engaging conversation. Jack's wife Fredna was equally charming as a hostess, he noted. In 1966, Jack and his wife Fredna moved into Ashdown House (whose name had been changed from Graduate House the prior year). They served as Head Residents there until 1973.

- Professor Fred Greene notes that Irvine joined the MIT Chemistry Department as "assistant professor, 1943-47; associate professor, 1947-58; professor, 1958-79. His research work was primarily in the area of radiochemistry-separation methods, production of radionuclides, solvent extraction, anion exchange studies, radioactivity, organic scintillators. In the year 1957-58, he was Scientific Liaison Officer for the United States Office of Naval Research in England. From 1966-79, he was the Executive Officer for the MIT Chemistry Department, serving in that capacity under four chairmen (Professors Ross, Berchtold, Deutch, and Kinsey). He had a great deal to do with the planning and details of the Dreyfus Chemistry Laboratories, Building 18, which was dedicated in 1970."

Jack spent months working with the architects to make the new chemistry building practical and usable for chemistry, as they weren’t well versed in chem labs and were mainly concerned with aesthetics; in his capacity as the Department’s executive officer, he was particularly good at negotiating with the people who ran the buildings. Someone complained about several lights being out and getting no results when he asked that to be fixed. Jack went around the whole department, tallied some 200+ lights that were out and reported it; they were all replaced. He was an experienced glass blower, a relatively rare (and much needed) skill among faculty members in the 1950s and 1960s.

  Frederick G. Keyes click here
  (1885 - 1976) -- Photo courtesy MIT Museum (See group photo below -- taken in 1933)

- Professor Emeritus Keyes was long-term Chairman of the Chemistry Department, from 1923 until 1945.  He was a well respected physical chemist and emphasized this discipline as the Department grew during his tenure. According to Prof. John Ross's memoir on Keyes, "his office was constructed at his expense in about 1932 of fine Canadian white oak paneling. It had a ceiling painted blue with silver fleurs-de-lis and a fireplace."  Some years later, in this Building 6 office was domiciled MIT's Dean of Science.  Keyes is reputed to have driven a high-end automobile, a Rolls Royce as one former student recalled.

        James L. Kinsey click here  (1934 - 2014)

- Professor Kinsey notes that he joined the MIT faculty in 1962, which means that he was likely your teacher for pchem lab. If so, he says that "you have my belated apologies." From 1977-1982, he served as head of the Chemistry Department.  He left MIT in 1988 to be dean of natural sciences at Rice University -- a position he held for 10 years before spending 10 more years as a Rice faculty member, retiring in 2008. He says he has very warm memories of MIT-- students, colleagues, friends

-- One former grad student recalled that he and Prof. Kinsey developed a way to map the evolution of photo-dissociating molecules on a femtosecond time-scale. It was definitely a fun and exciting time for both of them. While Jim was very busy as Chair of the chemistry department, the two did have quite a few deliberations on their project. Jim, according to the advisee, had his way of looking at things, which the student thought was derived from Herbert Goldstein’s Classical Mechanics textbook. Without fail, the morning after each of these meetings, the student found on his desk a few pages of complex derivations Jim prepared for him.  The equations might have been too advanced for the student, who "viewed this process as something Jim needed to do for himself" and then left it at that. This description provides interesting insight into Dr. Kinsey's way of keeping on top of his game in the midst of many administrative duties and also of his approach to teaching/advising his grad students as they carry out their research and move up the learning curve.

-- The following was excerpted from a remembrance of Professor Kinsey that was written by Rice University’s Centennial Historian Dr. Melissa Kean. “Jim became a physical chemist, and a very fine one. He taught at MIT for twenty-six years and was elected to the National Academy of Science. He returned to his undergraduate alma mater Rice in 1988 …….. as the Dean of Natural sciences. He became an outstanding dean, a clear and effective leader who oversaw significant expansion and improvement in facilities, curriculum and faculty…… I learned a lot from him about Rice but the big lesson he taught me was something else altogether. After several years it slowly dawned on me that even when we were talking about events that he had actually participated in himself, his working assumption was that he did not fully understand what had happened or why. Discussing meetings he had been in or decisions that had been made, he was both humble and deeply inquisitive, far more likely to ask me questions than to tell me what had, in his opinion, really happened. This is both very rare and, it seems to me, very wise. The search for the truth was what mattered to him and the way towards it was to question everything, especially those things you thought you already knew. This has had a profound impact on me. It is the absolute core of life as a scholar. We are all of us working in the dark, looking hard for light.”

--   CLICK HERE for an insightful biographical write-up on Dr. Kinsey as published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.

  Richard C. Lord click here (1910 - 1989)

-- Professor Lord was the Director of MIT’s Spectroscopy Laboratory for a 30-year period beginning in 1946, and was appointed Professor of Chemistry in 1954. Under Lord’s leadership, this Laboratory was interdisciplinary and brought together scientists from several departments, including Chemistry and Physics. One of his colleagues at the lab was Charles Towne, who shared in the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the laser and maser. Prof. Lord received the first laser source for a Cary Raman Spectrometer in the US. This enabled his group to study aqueous hydrogen bonding and DNA base pairs.

-- According to one of Prof. Lord’s grad students, Dick invited several of his research students to play golf at his club on a cold November day. The grad students sprayed balls all over the course and Doc Lord’s shot went straight down the center and not terribly far. His research was also straight down the middle. Dr. Lord had a level disposition, but when angry, the back of his neck would turn bright red. You could see it all the way across the large dining room. In those cases, I would go eat with the inorganic chemists instead of the Lord research group. One time a grad student of Lord’s turned on a light in Physics Professor Ali Javan’s spectroscopy room, blowing a large bank of photomultipliers. Soon thereafter, a Javan student went to Lord’s office to “explain” what happened because he could not find Javan; he was disrespectful to Dr. Lord, Director of the Spectroscopy Laboratory, and this was not well received.

  William R. (Bob) Moore click here
  (1928 - 2009) 

-- Professor Moore was in charge of 5.412, the introductory lab course in organic chemistry; please refer to distillation apparatus above for some added color.  Beyond boring corks, we learned skills that would serve well those of us who chose to develop further our skills in this discipline.  Fractional distillation, recrystallization, separation techniques, and running a myriad of reactions were all part of the curriculum.  One synthesis that was especially challenging involved creating a Grignard reagent from  an alkyl bromide and magnesium metal; initiating the reaction required several attempts and failed altogether if there was too much "moisture" in the system.  But eventually we accomplished the task.  Professor Moore moved to West Virginia University in 1972 as Chemistry Department chairman.  One of his legacies is the popular companion book Laboratory Manual for Organic Chemistry: A Microscale Approach which was co-authored by his WVU colleague Anthony Winston in the mid-1990s. Outside of the lab and classroom, according to one grad student, Bob was a very good pitcher on the chemistry department intramural softball team.

--According to one colleague on the faculty, Dr. Moore was an excellent educator, a truly innovative scientist and an excellent experimentalist.   His research group did some remarkably nice things in small ring chemistry.   However, much of this did not get published in a timely fashion.   When MIT cut the undergraduate Core Chemistry requirement from two terms to one, Chairman Cope asked Prof. Moore to construct a new freshman chemistry curriculum that included laboratory work.   He worked tirelessly on this for many months and came up with some great new laboratory experiments.   But progress toward his writing research reports suffered because of this huge new task.

-- To quote from one of Bob's early-in-career graduate students: "One of Bob's truly unusual and remarkable characteristics - one I didn't recognize at the time - was the breadth of his interests. He was billed as an organic chemist, but the first task he assigned me was to construct a gas chromatograph (none were yet available commercially) and to use it to separate the spin isomers of hydrogen (ortho and para), which have slightly different boiling points; this is well outside any reasonable definition of organic chemistry. That task was followed by equilibration of cyclic allenes and acetylenes, and then a third problem - reactions of gem-dibromocyclopropanes with alkyl lithiums. At my dissertation defense, Department Chair Arthur C. Cope observed that this was the first three-part dissertation he had seen in which all parts were successful, but unrelated. Observing Bob's nimble creativity was a great opportunity and provided me a valuable model for my own work."

   Avery A. Morton click here    (1892 - 1987)  Photos courtesy MIT Museum 

-- Professor Emeritus Avery Morton was one of three senior organic chemistry professors at MIT before Arthur Cope arrived as department chair in 1945.  Apparently, Professor Morton was a bit miffed that he wasn't named to head the department or at least to be appointed head of the organic chemistry sector; he and Cope weren't especially close.  Morton is known for his synthetic work on heterocyclic compounds, organosodium catalysts, and the use of such "alfin" catalysts to rapidly prepare high molecular weight rubbers (such as polybutadiene).  Also, he created the so-called Morton Flask, a spherical vessel which had several vertical groove to maximize turbulence when fitted with a high-speed stirrer.  He was somewhat controversial, as there were occasions in the last ten years of his tenure as full professor in which other faculty members questioned his interpretations of observed phenomena.  Some believed he was not abreast of the steadily increasing amount of information on organic reaction mechanisms.  It should be noted that one of Professor Morton's "advisees," at least nominally, was Robert Burns Woodward who earned his Ph.D. at MIT in 1937, went to Harvard shortly thereafter, and won the 1965 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his pioneering work in the synthesis of complex natural products.  There are some incorrect citations to the effect that Avery Ashdown was Woodward's Ph.D. adviser, but the accompanying picture of acknowledgements page from Woodward's dissertation "A Synthetic Attack on the Oestrone Problem" clearly notes organic chemists Morton (and James Flack Norris) as having taken a particular interest in the work.

Irwin Oppenheim click here    (1929-2014) 

-- Professor Oppenheim in his own words: "I came to MIT in 1961 after working at the National Bureau of Standards and Convair, an aircraft company, where I was chief of theoretical physics. My first class was 5.70 (statistical mechanics) which had approximately 20 seniors and first year graduate students in it. The class was exceptional and was a delight to teach. Among the students were: John Deutch who was a graduate student and who rose in the faculty ranks at MIT from professor of chemistry to provost and then became director the CIA. He is now back at MIT as an emeritus Institute professor; Hans C. Andersen who became a professor of chemistry and a dean at Stanford and is now retired, and Jeff Steinfeld who returned to MIT after a sojourn at Harvard and is now emeritus professor of chemistry. John and Hans were also my Ph.D. students. I remained at MIT until I retired a few years ago after spending time as a visiting professor at Leiden, Amsterdam, Weizmann Institute and UCSD. My teaching experience was a great joy to me and very stimulating. I usually taught graduate courses (5.70, 5.72) and undergraduate thermodynamics (5.60) which usually had 300 students in it. Graduate teaching was very easy but trying to teach thermodynamics to under graduates from freshmen to seniors was frequently difficult. I treasure the comments of a student in the class when I was teaching with Bob Alberty. The student wrote that he enjoyed the class very much except that the light reflected from the bald heads of the teachers frequently woke him up. The most enjoyable task at MIT was interacting with the graduate students who wrote their Ph.D theses under my direction.  Most of them have gone on to bigger and better things such as: vice president of Shell for research and development; fellow of the Royal Society; senior researchers at the RAND Corporation; professorships at universities in the USA, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Israel, and Canada."

-- Most of you probably recall 5.61 -- first course in Physical Chemistry, with emphasis on thermodynamics.  It was taught by Prof. Oppenheim.    While this might not apply to many students, it was still a challenging course.  It's hard to forget the exams.  Open book -- simple -- right?  When you turned in your paper and left the room, you were really spent and maybe even depressed.  Fortunately, if you scored 60% or more, you qualified for an "A".  That only served to demonstrate the truth -- you need to take thermo 3 or 4 times.......... before you really understand it.

-- One of Dr. Oppenheim's well-known grad students is Prof. John M. Deutch (PhD - 1961) who has spent a considerable part of his career as a civil servant -- duties which were interspersed with his teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities at MIT. In the late 1970s, Deutch served in the Department of Energy in various capacities, including Director of Energy Research, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology, and Undersecretary of the Department. In 1993 and 1994, he was Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition and Technology), and as such was responsible for acquisition/procurement strategies for all major weapon systems programs. Dr. Deutch was Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1995 and was appointed Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1995. At the CIA, Deutch promoted further declassification of Cold War records relating to U.S. covert operations. A hullabaloo over classified information related to the CIA’s involvement in drug dealing may have led to Deutch's resignation from the Agency in 1996, and Bill Clinton pardoned him shortly before leaving the presidency. He has earned numerous awards for both his physical chemistry research as well as his long-standing commitment to government service.

-- One undergraduate who did his senior thesis with Prof. Oppenheim recalled those days warmly: “Watching Irwin teach drew me into his field of science. And like many of IO’s students, I tried to imitate Irwin’s style – even his handwriting, and of course, his way of laughing. More importantly, his rigor sculpted the way I view and do thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. His influence is found in all that I write and teach. In that way, IO’s legacy will live on.”

CLICK HERE for an obituary of Dr. Oppenheim as published by MIT.


David K. Roe click here   (1933 - 2010) 

--One Chemistry professor noted that Dr. Roe was his best friend among the faculty while both were at MIT in the 1960s. They would typically have coffee together at 3 PM to discuss many and varied topics. Roe’s scientific background was in electrochemistry and he made major contributions in that area. He was a member of the electrochemistry "establishment' that dominated analytical chemistry in the late 1960s. Additionally, he had great expertise in small electronic devices that were beginning to make a significant impact on analytical chemistry at that time. These two colleagues were hired as the chemical consultants to Instrumentation Laboratory (Lexington, MA) -- a start-up company at that time that became a significant player in analytical instrumentation. Prof. Roe left MIT 1968 to join the faculty of the newly-created institution, Oregon Graduate Center for Study and Research in Portland, funded (mainly by Tektronix) to support the developing electronics industry in Portland. He remained there for a while doing the same kind of research that he had at MIT. As time progressed the focus of the institution changed, and Dr. Roe departed for Portland State where he finished his academic career.

  James W. Ross click here  (b. 1928)

- Professor Ross joined MIT as an Instructor in 1957 and Assistant Professor two years later -- specializing in electrochemistry within the Analytical Group. He left the Institute in 1962 and was a cofounder of Orion Research Incorporated. He was a pioneer in the development and refinement of ion-selective electrodes (ISE). (Note: Orion Research is today owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific and remains in the ISE business.)

-- According to one former grad student, "Jim Ross was a fantastic teacher. He could explain the most complex electrochemical concepts in terms that even I could understand. I was very disappointed when I learned that his appointment would not be renewed. Being very naïve, a fellow grad student, Dave West, and I went to see the department chairman, Prof. Cope, to plead his case. While I thought we did a good job in promoting the teaching credentials of Prof. Ross, the final word was that Ross had not published enough according to the Chemistry Department's publish-or-perish criteria and therefore would have to leave. While a significant loss to us, Ross’ departure from MIT was a gain for science. He went on to found Orion Research which was the first company to commercialize ion-selective electrodes (other than the pH and sodium electrodes). His first two electrodes, calcium and fluoride, became major advances in the determination of these ions, the first being of critical importance in biomedical science and the fluoride electrode greatly simplifying the analysis of this difficult anion. Thus, the loss to the ‘tute led to establishment of a new technology that is still thriving to this day."

    George Scatchard click here  (1892-1973) (See group photo below -- taken in 1933)

- One graduate student noted the following: “I had become interested in ion-selective membranes, which might form a basis for construction of ion-selective electrodes. In the 1960s, the only fully successful example was the glass pH electrode. Anyone who could produce, for example, a pNa electrode would have a good product. I thought I had an idea for a sodium-selective membrane and was advised to discuss it with Professor Scatchard. He agreed to meet with me and listened with interest for about ten minutes before proposing that Ca+2 might out-compete Na+1 for sites in the membrane. "Not likely," I responded, "the calcium ions are too large." Professor Scatchard hesitated for a second and replied, "Oh, are they?" The tone, somewhere between humorous and friendly, with the "are" drawn out just a bit, left no doubt that I had blundered. I reported the incident to Dave Roe (an assistant professor in those days), who smiled knowingly and told me that I had been "Scatchardized." At least the experience was common enough that it already had a name.”

CLICK HERE for a biographical memoir of Dr. Scatchard as published by the National Academy of Sciences

Dietmar Seyferth click here   (b. 1929)

- Professor Seyferth was a very prolific researcher in his career at MIT that began in 1957.  HIs chosen sector was organometallic chemistry, including an early focus on "sandwich" compounds.  He "retired" in 1999, at which point he became Professor Emeritus, but continued part-time teaching and authoring additional papers and reviews for several years.  During his 50 years at MIT, he published approximately one paper or review per month, on average. While he was in the Department, there was a gradual shift toward biological systems and environmental science, with physical organic chemistry losing favor with synthesis of complex molecules holdings its own; inorganic and organometallic sectors continued to grow.  Dr. Seyferth also left his mark as founding editor of two journals -- "Journal of Organometallic Chemistry" (Regional Editor -- 1964 - 1981), and the ACS publication "Organometallics" (Editor-in-Chief - 1982 - 2010).   Among his array of honors was winning the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry in 1996.

-- One former grad student shared several interesting stories about Dr. Seyferth: "For many years, Dietmar assiduously kept up with the activities of all his students, recent and past. He knew their family histories, about their jobs, and cared about all manner of their activities. The relationships forged were far beyond what research you had done and what results were published, although most current students were visited by Dietmar every day with a “what’s new” request. If you wanted to move out from the obvious line of research, Dietmar might be a bit reluctant, but he let you do it, sometimes to both his and your benefit....... Because of the daily “what’s new” requests, it is alleged that certain students kept brightly colored liquids refluxing at their bench all the time, but, in reality, Dietmar knew, having years before written a guide to fooling research directors......... One of Dietmar’s French postdocs was thrilled that Dietmar said to him “you are the best French postdoc I ever had.” Said postdoc took a while to realize that he was the only French postdoc Dietmar had had to that point!.......... Dietmar also published a paper on the first isolation of d-orbitals. Some took it seriously."

-- A former undergraduate student also has several revealing thoughts/recollections about Prof. Seyferth: "Dietmar always maintained the highest standards when it came to the characterization of new compounds synthesized in his labs, including melting point determination and - the bane of many students’ lives - satisfactory elemental analysis. To prevent students from “massaging” the results, Dietmar insisted on mailing the samples out for analysis himself (or he had his secretary mail them.) The procedure was to fill out an index card with the notebook page #, formula, and calculated % elemental composition, then give Dietmar the card along with a sealed ampoule containing some of the compound. Dietmar would make sure it was mailed out to a company for analysis, and the results would be sent directly back to him. If your compound passed (was pure enough), he’d leave the index card on your desk with a gold star attached. If, however, it didn’t pass, he’d pull out the inked rubber stamp with the image of a hand with only the middle finger extended. The message was clear: try it again, but get it pure this time!............ Dietmar certainly enjoyed holiday parties, both in the chemistry department and in his own home. Back in those days it was fully expected that the punch at the departmental party would be fortified with 95% ethanol -- NEVER the drier stuff distilled from the benzene azeotrope! I can’t really comment on potentially incriminating behavior by students and faculty at those departmental parties, but I do recall that Dietmar was a VERY gracious host at group holiday parties in his house. He was constantly circulating with a punch bowl and ladle, topping off everyone’s glass while saying “Here, your glass is almost empty.” This made it impossible to keep track of how much of the deceptively strong punch one had imbibed. To be honest, this is about the only thing I can remember from Dietmar’s parties………….. Dietmar’s humorous essay “How to Get a Ph.D. without Really Working" concerned the adventures of J. J. Pudvin, the sly, lazy, and somewhat unethical grad student is legendary. But have no doubt: the REAL purpose of the essay was to show his grad students that Dietmar already knew every trick in the book………….. Dietmar didn’t just walk into lab each day and ask “what’s new?” He came through TWICE each day. One time my lab mate had two great results, yet only mentioned one during Dietmar’s morning rounds. When I asked him about the omission, he noted that the second result was in reserve to mollify Dietmar after lunch."

-- One apocryphal, but unconfirmed, story about Professor Seyferth concerning an early meeting with incoming graduate students.  When one of the new scholars asked him how long it took a student to complete a Ph.D. in his research group, the answer was  "The bad students - three years; the good ones -- five."

John C. Sheehan click here    (1915 - 1992)   - Photo #3 courtesy MIT Museum

-- One former student noted that Professor Sheehan was a charismatic teacher and leader who guided scores of graduate chemistry students in their doctoral work while carrying a full teaching load. He was virtually an iconic figure and an internationally respected authority on penicillin & natural product synthesis. He is credited with the first biosynthesis of penicillin and analogs, and is arguably best known for becoming the first to discover, in 1957, a practical method for synthesizing penicillin V. According to one of his Ph.D. advisees, Sheehan believed that the people who performed the work should receive credit for it. Yet, it is interesting that Prof. Sheehan was the only inventor listed on two important US patents (#3,159,617 and #2,934,540) relating to the synthesis and production of penicillin.

-- Viewing his own achievement in preparing synthetically penicillin V, Sheehan is quoted as saying “At the time of my successful synthesis of penicillin V in 1957, I compared the problem of trying to synthesize penicillin by classical methods to that of attempting to repair the mainspring of a fine watch with a blacksmith’s anvil, hammer, and tongs.” In the late 1940s, British chemist John W. Cornforth (a subsequent Nobel laureate for his work with enzymes) performed significant research on a route toward the synthesis of penicillin and felt his work was slighted in Sheehan’s publications. That is, Cornforth believed he didn’t receive proper credit and that Sheehan’s work was an extension of his own research. Prof. Sheehan’s alleged response was the following statement: “Bad publicity is better than no publicity."

-- Many of the MIT Chemistry professors in the 1960s and beyond indulged in sailing. It must come with the turf – whoops, the water, that is. Prof. Sheehan had a moderate sized boat and often went sailing with his faculty colleagues. He was active in the American Chemical Society and served this organization in a highly capable manner as a member of its Board of Directors for eight years. Dr. Sheehan had a reasonably good sense of humor but it was not exactly dazzling. One individual that knew him quite well noted that he was not as hard working as some of the other faculty members; rather, Sheehan had a more easy-going approach to things.

-- According to one undergraduate involved in a senior thesis project, "Dr. Sheehan often told me that if I just remembered that a carbon could have no more than 4 bonds, I couldn’t go wrong."

-- One undergraduate recalls taking 5.41 in the fall term of his sophomore year, with Professor Sheehan presiding. His father passed away that same December, and while he was away, he missed a critical quiz. Upon his return to MIT a week or so later, he explained the situation and asked to be allowed to take a makeup exam. Prof. Sheehan refused the request. A zero for that quiz would not have helped his final grade, to be sure. At that time, Professor Ashdown was the unofficial ombudsman for undergraduates, and so the student went to him and asked for his help. Prof. Ashdown interceded on his behalf and Sheehan allowed him to take a makeup exam while sitting in his office. Despite having aced that exam, the student had “a kind spot in my heart for Ashdown but none for Sheehan.”

CLICK HERE for a 1995 presentation by Dr. Sheehan's son David when the Professor was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

        David P. Shoemaker click here   (1920 - 1995)

-- The First Edition of Experiments in Physical Chemistry, co-authored by David Shoemaker and Carl Garland, was published in 1962.  It is now in its Eighth Edition!

-- Clara Brink was a Dutch crystallographer. After she completed her PhD at the University of Utrecht, she found it difficult to set up a lab in Holland, perhaps because of her sex, and someone suggested she should have a year of experience in America. David P. Shoemaker at MIT was looking for a Research Associate. She applied for the job, received an offer, and started in 1953. A friend, Jack Dunitz, a British chemist and chemical crystallographer, visited her before she left for the US, and commented later to his wife: “I have just met the future wife of David Shoemaker.” Sure enough, they married in 1955, and during the 1960s Clara Shoemaker was a research scientist at MIT. David and Clara specialized in structures of zeolites and transition metals.  Both relocated to Oregon State University in 1970.   

       Stephen G. Simpson click here    (1894 - ca.1980)   - Photo courtesy MIT Museum

-- Professor Simpson, who graduated from MIT in 1916, joined MIT's faculty as an Instructor in 1919 (after spending a few years at the 'tute as an Assistant). He is perhaps best known for the storied textbook Calculations of Quantitative Chemical Analysis, co-authored with fellow faculty member Leicester Hamilton and introduced in 1922. (The 1922 edition was based on the 1897 Quantitative Chemical Analysis, which was written by MIT’s Chemistry Department Chairman {1901-1922} Prof. Henry P. Talbot who utilized the book as source material for an introductory course in Analytical Chemistry.) The name of Hamilton and Simpson’s book was subsequently changed to Calculations of Analytical Chemistry as a result of the expanded scope of the tome. The 7th, and final edition was copyrighted in 1969 (47 years after the 1st edition) and listed three authors – Hamilton, Simpson, and David W. Ellis.

-- Prof Simpson taught traditional analytical chemistry. One student from the early 1960s remembers Prof. Simpson as a kind, older professor, who had an extensive knowledge of traditional chemistry. He enjoyed chemistry "magic" and sometimes used it as a way to illustrate specific chemical reactions, etc. Looking back, the student said, it may have been hard for Prof. Simpson as he recognized that instrumental methods of analysis would increasingly be the methods of choice.

-- From The Tech -- October 15, 1935 -- "Simmons College will be the guests of the Technology chapter of the Intercollegiate Menorah Society at the first meeting of the year to be held in the 5:15 Club room this Thursday at 8:30 o'clock…….  Professor Stephen G. Simpson, of the Chemistry Department, is scheduled to give one of his popular legerdemainic exhibitions. An amateur magician for many years, Professor Simpson is reputed to still have a few new things "up his sleeve". Dancing to the victrola-radio until 1 A.M. will follow the exhibition, and refreshments will be served."

   Clark C. Stephenson click here   (1912 - 1994)

-- One of his faculty colleagues notes that Professor Stephenson was a great scholar of thermodynamics and an infinitely charming person.

-- A grad student recalled that Professor Stephenson did research on the thermodynamic property values (heat capacities, enthalpy, entropy, etc.).  He had a paper tape adding machine in his office and the tape with the resultant figures was several inches deep. He would look for inconsistencies in the thermodynamic results and when he found one, he would design an experiment to measure the value of the inconsistent number. His lab had large constant temperature baths and students were only allowed to be in that area for a designated time in order to maintain the bath temperatures. There was plenty of spilled mercury in the lab, and rumor had it that no one was allowed to clean the lab because the dust covered the pools of mercury, reducing the vapor pressure.

                 Walter H. Stockmayer click here    (1914 - 2004)  

In addition to his highly respected work in physical chemistry, Professor Stockmayer created the alter ego, Waldemar Silberszyc.  He was an MIT product and long time faculty member, but moved to Dartmouth after the 1961 academic year.  He kept close connections to the MIT dept.  Mythology had it that "Stocky" never published errata to any of his papers.  Instead, Waldemar would publish a short paper attacking or criticizing the "offending" work that he previously published.  

  CLICK HERE for an example of one of Stocky's "Waldemar Silberszyc" research notes as published in Polymer Letters

             C. Gardner Swain click here    (1917 - 1988)  

-- Professor Swain obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard under the tutelage of Paul Bartlett in 1944.  Four years later his wife Marguerite earned her doctorate with the same adviser.  Their son, who is host of The Victory Garden (PBS show), is named Roger Bartlett Swain, in honor of their mentor.  Marguerite has penned a short but poignant biography of her late husband -- a document that can be viewed by clicking on Gardner's name just above.

-- One former Gardner Swain advisee noted that the professor was a classical “physical organic chemist,” and a relatively independent one at that. He was very intense, focused sharply on his key subjects, didn’t waste time, and was always “moving forward,” concentrating on solving the next problem. He had a multitude of projects and, at times, may have been stretched a bit thin as a result. Gardner was very accessible to his research students, especially those at the graduate level. He wasn’t much for “small talk,” preferring to discuss the projects at hand. He was focused on reaction mechanisms and often utilized isotope effects as part of the investigatory process; in fact, he postulated the so-called "Swain Equation" which dealt with the relative rates of reaction for the three different isotopes of hydrogen. He did have a unique sense of humor: in a research paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, C. G. Swain and E. Pegues, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 80, 812 (1958), Swain proposed a solution to a reaction mechanism which differed from that put forth by Sir Christopher Ingold, who Swain alleged, committed experimental errors; in a footnote, he referred to Corinthians, Chapter 13, which includes the verse “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things….,” as his way of deriding Ingold’s work. Beyond chemistry, Gardner loved gobbling down lobsters, hiking (including energetically jogging up the local mountain at the Gordon Conference)  and nature.

        Walter R. Thorson  click here  (b. 1932)

-- Many of you may recall Prof. Walter Thorson as being in command of your basic P-Chem course using, as he describes it, a “classical approach” to Thermodynamics –the critical subject “you had to take 3 or 4 times before you really understand it.”  Walter was a professor at MIT between from 1958 to 1968 before moving to the University of Alberta where he was Professor of Theoretical Chemistry until his retirement in 1994.  In addition to teaching P-Chem in Alberta, his research focused on the theory of atomic collisions, as well as quantum & classical dynamics of systems with few degrees of freedom.  Walter was very student-oriented, and one of his advisees recalls that, as his faculty advisor in his freshman year, Walter provided invaluable guidance in helping chart a course toward earning a BS in three years.

-- According to a Speaker Bio on Prof. Thorson as published in 2012 by Gordon College, “In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Thorson is a committed, evangelical Christian and has published numerous articles on topics relating to issues in theology, science and faith, many of which appeared in Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith (PSCF). He was a visiting scholar at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey and has written extensively on issues relating to the 'Intelligent Design' hypothesis."

  John S. Waugh click here

- In 2011, the Welch Foundation bestowed upon Professor Waugh the Welch Award in Chemistry for his pioneering work in nuclear magnetic resonance, including extending the technique to determine the structure of solid materials, detect rare nuclei, and boost sensitivity through the use of temperatures just above 0o K.

-- One grad student noted that Dr. Waugh was unassuming and didn't take students too seriously, especially when they were "caught up in themselves."  Also, he wasn't in the business seeking fame or fortune, but rather sought to uncover new frontiers in NMR.  After Professor Stockmayer left MIT in 1962, Dr. Waugh carried on Stockmayer's tradition, posing as Waldemar Silberszyc at select venues.  Several former students noted his excellent sense of humor as well as his love of sailing and cigarettes.  Regarding the former, Prof. Waugh named his sailing vessel "Magic Angle," which is synonymous with the spinning technique utilized to bolster resolution in solid-state NMR studies.

-- A former grad student recalled an interesting “soldering accident” with Prof. Waugh. While the student was working at his desk in Dr. Waugh’s lab one day doing some soldering, the advisor came in and started discussing a long-forgotten topic. After a time, the two started to smell smoke. Alas, somehow the sleeve of Waugh’s suit jacket came into contact with the hot tip of the soldering iron. The victim took the news with surprising equanimity—no profanity, saying something like “Well, it’s off to the re-weavers.”

-- In an interview published in MIT’s 2011 Chemformation periodical (paraphrased below), Prof. Waugh noted that university’s Chemistry Department was, earlier in his career, headed by a very successful organic chemist, Arthur Clay Cope, who was very active in the affairs of the American Chemical Society. When he went to MIT, Waugh had not joined the ACS – perhaps in part because his Caltech Ph.D. advisor, chemist Don Yost, was not a joiner himself. At MIT, Waugh received some hints, perhaps from Cope, that he might ultimately earn some awards and that the ACS makes such awards. Waugh, ever the analyst, calculated that if he put an amount equal to the ACS dues annually into a savings bank that he would be guaranteed a substantial sum on retirement. Hence, he founded the UnAmerican Chemical Society, and noted that it was, “at that time the only scientific society represented by a congressional committee.” The late MIT professor Al Cotton, in his autobiography, remarked that the UCS would only admit to membership those who did NOT join the ACS and even had a Fellows designation reserved only for those members who had NEVER joined the ACS. Cotton remarked that “All of this nonsense was, of course, in aid of one thing: getting Art Cope’s goat. And it did.” Nevertheless, it should be recalled that, among his many honors, Waugh won the ACS-Sponsored Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics in 1976.

-- Beyond his scientific accomplishments in magnetic resonance and other physical chemistry sectors, Prof. Waugh was also known for his expertise in a critical sub-discipline within organic chemistry: the concoction of the infamous “J.S. Waugh Martini.”

CLICK HERE to read Prof. Waugh's autobiographical summary of his career, "Sixty Years of Nuclear Moments."

        George M. Whitesides click here  (b. 1939)

-- According to a grad student in the Chemistry Department, Whitesides, during his first year as Assistant Professor in 1963 -- had not yet acquired a conception of what was reasonable to expect his first year graduate students to know. He was fairly aggressive (he is mellow by comparison today) and would typically ask, “Do you really believe that?” Whitesides once entered a large class of graduate students in his Quantum Mechanics course, wrote the Schrödinger equation on the board, turned around, and commented “Let there be light.” Another grad student recalled that Whitesides initially occupied a lab that also served as his faculty office. A few years later Whitesides moved to a new office in what used to be a janitor’s closet behind a freight elevator on the 3rd floor of building 6. He was likely a strong supporter of the construction of Building 18 (in which Course V headquarters are now located) which opened in 1969. Whitesides departed MIT for Harvard in 1982.

-- One former grad student said that it was really enjoyable working in under Prof. Whitesides’ direction. “Beyond our individual projects, we were also exposed to different cutting-edge subjects which were either related or unrelated to our work. This type of training gave us the opportunity to understand the status of different scientific advances and to explore new directions in science. Dr. Whitesides usually would not follow closely our day-to-day research activities. He often just pointed out the major challenge for the assignment and discussed a strategic approach to the problem. This modus operandi helped bring out the best in his students since they were stimulated to innovate more on their own, even devising the details of the experiment. This pattern of flexible direction helped the student achieve more and led to more publications.”  Writing a scientific manuscript for publication was said to be a major challenge in Whitesides’ lab. “His critical and analytical thinking and great writing style were something that we all tried emulating.” Without exception the student’s first draft of the paper could not pass his standard and was always returned with “bloody” comments and corrections. But it was said to be a critical learning experience.

- Among the numerous awards and honors bestowed upon Dr. Whitesides are U.S. National Medal of Science (1998), the Welch Award (2005), the James Flack Norris Award (1994), and the Priestly Medal (2007). Some former students felt that the reason he has not won the Nobel Prize was because he changed his field too often, starting a new field of research almost every five years!

- According to, Whitesides "is a co-founder of companies with a combined market capitalization of over $20 billion," including biotechnology company Genzyme (acquired by Sanofi), GelTex (also now part of Sanofi), Theravance, Surface Logix, Arsenal Medical and Nano-Terra.

CLICK HERE to see a video in which Dr. Whitesides discusses nanotechnology."


  Staff of the Research Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and guests at the dedication of the George Eastman Laboratory (Building 6) at MIT, April 29, 1933.  Four professors pictured who remained on the staff during the 1960-1964 period are highlighted.

  This sub-optimal photo of a significant portion of the Chemistry Department's faculty taken in 1970 at the dedication of the new Dreyfus Chemistry Building (Bldg. 18), and, if a high quality version is available, it would surely be substituted.  Nevertheless, several members of the department can be identified, including James Drubin-1, John Irvine-2, Fred Greene-5, Leicester Hamilton-6, Isadore Amdur-7, Glenn Berchtold-8, Klaus Biemann-9, Jan Beenakker (visiting professor)-10, Carl Garland-11, John Ross-12, John Waugh (disguised as Waldemar Silberszyc, an alter-ego originally created by Prof. Walter Stockmayer, as described above)-13, Robert Silbey-14, James Traficante -15, Jeff Steinfeld-16, Gardner Swain-17, John Sheehan-18, David Hume-19, William (Bob) Moore-20, John Deutch-21, Dietmar Seyferth-22, and George Whitesides-23.

  Professors Al Cotton, Dietmar Seyferth, and Alan Davison (the latter of whom joined Chemistry Department in September, 1964) in the mid-1960s, donned with their thin ties.  This group might have been dubbed the Inorganic Troika of its period.  Perhaps this gathering was as a prelude to a discussion of the most recent advances in sandwiches -- organometallic types of course. 

   Clark Stephenson & Paul Lubin - Class of 1964

  Jim Boiani - Class of 1964

  Bill Young - Class of 1964


Can you recall bringing down your stack of punch cards to the IBM 7090 in the MIT Computer Center (pictured here in the mid-1960s)?  Hopefully you never let them slip out of your hands while transferring them to the card reader.