Notice: We are in the process of migrating Oral History Interview metadata to this new version of our website.
During this migration, the following fields associated with interviews may be incomplete: Institutions, Additional Persons, and Subjects. Our Browse Subjects feature is also affected by this migration.
We encourage researchers to utilize the full-text search on this page to navigate our oral histories or to use our catalog to locate oral history interviews by keyword.
Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Paul Bartlett by Leon Gortler on 1978 July 18,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Family background; father’s education; early education and musical interest; Amherst College with graduate fellowship; graduate school at Harvard University; influence of Elmer Kohler’s course on early research problems, bromination of ketones. Comments on staff, fellow students and influential faculty at Harvard (James B. Conant); teaching policies at Harvard. Postdoctoral work at Rockefeller Institute and Columbia University; wife’s contribution to career; University of Minnesota position, comments on Charles Frederick Koelsch’s work and on the facilities at Minnesota. Discussions of own work and works of Richard S. Berry, Robert Henry Rosenwald, Irving POkel. Research funds at University of Minnesota, the importance of National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH); move to Harvard, lengthy comments on teaching, graduate students and faculty, as well as on other organic chemists (Christopher Ingolf, William Gould Young, Howard Lucas); status of physical organic chemistry and the future of chemistry.
Professor Bartlett was on the staff of the chemistry department of Harvard University from 1934 to 1974, and from 1948 he was Erving Professor of Chemistry. Since 1974 he has been the Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, pet’s start with your childhood and adolescence. Perhaps you could. tell me a little bit about your father, George Bartlett; a little about his own education, his work and his influence on you.
Well, he got a late start academically because his father died when he was nine or ten years old, and he went to work in a factory for, I don’t know how long. This means that he dropped out of school at age nine or ten. At age 21, through the influence of a teacher that he knew, he entered high school in Stamford, Conn., worked his way through high school, and then he went to Amherst College. He finished in the class of 1901, working his way entirely through there, and then he had a teaching job at what was then the Case School of Applied Science, and is now Case-Western Reserve in Cleveland. In 1903 he became an instructor in the engineering school of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I was born there in 1907. He had been there four years, and then he decided to go into industry, and he went with the Diamond Chain Co. of Indianapolis, where we moved in 1910. While there be got quite interested in machine design and became an engineer, without having any formal engineering training. He redesigned roller chains and he designed power transmissions, and shaft corplings and stuff like that. Some of this was directly in the line of the business of Diamond Chain, and some he did on the side. He ran a small business where he sold flexible shaft couplings and things like that. I went to grade school and high school in Indianapolis.
I had always heard quite a lot about Amherst College, and I was interested in going there. I had been there at some point when there was a college reunion of my father’s class. I entered Amherst in l921 I may say, though, in retrospect, there’s no getting around the fact that both the grade school and the high school education I had in Indianapolis were exceptionally good. I have not seen any specimens of that art in other places that struck me as anything like as good as what I encountered. For example the grade school that I went to was sort of innovative, and they started a program while I was there in second grade of teaching German to second grade students. I enrolled in this, and they had a teacher who went about it in both the oral and the written way. We learned the Gothic alphabet and we spoke German in class and so on, and learned the pronunciation She was an actual German.
This was just getting going nicely when World War I came along, and German was a dirty word, and absolutely everything German went out of the schools. So that was that, as far as that experiment was concerned. They also began teaching Latin and algebra in that grade school in the seventh grade. This was way ahead of its time, With that program, we got advanced standing in Latin and math in high school. The high school that I went to, Shortridge High School, was a very classically based high school with very dedicated teachers, They taught Latin and Greek, among other things, and they had pretty good instruction in everything, so that I felt when I got to Amherst that in some ways, I was marking time. I had really gotten a nice start.
I think your friend Ted Palmer wrote that. What was it like growing up in Indianapolis?
Well, we lived in a very simple middle class neighborhood on the North Side, near Fall Creek, where it was possible to go down and wade around a bit and catch crawdads, and life was fairly simple. Last spring, I was in Indianapolis for the first time in many years, and I went around to the neighborhoods where we had lived, and found that they were absolutely classical examples of urban decay.
Most of the places where there were houses are now vacant lots, and the houses that are left are dilapidated. A very depressed looking neighborhood. Somebody told me that this was the center of the dope trade in Indianapolis. Well, it was very depressing. But then along with this, the programs for the kids were very good. I was a Boy Scout there. We had a nice Scout troop, and I had some very good young friends there. Some of us developed a place on the outskirts of town where there was a nice beech woods, and we had a platform in a tree out there and went out campingweek.ends, and stuff. The bicycle riding wasn’t bad. So it was a good place to grow up. I liked to play tennis. I played some golf. I played quite a bit of golf at one point in Indianapolis, when I was in high school, which I haven’t done since, because it was accessible there and simple and cheap. Not like today.
Your family’s financial condition and social position do you think this had any particular influence on your becoming a scientist? Do you think your father had influence on your becoming a scientist?
Oh, I think he undoubtedly did. He was mechanically and mathematically inclined, and I learned how tools worked from him, and enjoyed working problems and such. He took quite an interest in my instruction. There were some things that he didn’t think were taught well enough or soon enough, that he gave me some formal instruction in, and he used to read to me quite a lot. We read things like Jules Verne and science fiction and other kinds of things that he and I were both more interested in than any people around.
Do you think there are any experiences that you missed because of your background? It sounds like it was fairly stimulating. Bartlett; Well, I don’t know of any that I missed that I particularly wished I had. I was an only child, and I suppose that I missed some of the social facility that people grow up with that have lots of their peers around the house, But I never felt like a handicapped person.
You’ve already mentioned the fact that you had heard about Amherst and you wanted to go there. Did you consider any other institutions?
Yes. I was rather appealed to by the University of Chicago, but I think my father’s weight was rather cast against that, because he knew Chicago in the same way really in which I have now been speaking about Indianapolis. He was born in Chicago during a short stay of his father there, and when he went back to see the place where he was born, he was absolutely aghast at the nature o± it. Of course there’s a great deal of that sort of thing in Chicago. The University of Chicago was not surrounded by choice city in those days, either.
I was going to say, it couldn’t have been as bad than as it is now.
No, I don’t think it was as bad then as it is now, but it wasn’t especially good, and I think what my father under-emphasized was the real intellectual distinction of the University of Chicago. I had encountered some of the evidence of this in science, which he hadn’t. I don’t remember seriously considering any other places, and I was quite susceptible to the reasoning that Amherst was a good place because it was small and you would know people and they would know you and so on, as opposed to a big university, and it was in a pleasant country setting, as opposed to being in Chicago and so on and so on. I think my mother might have accepted an arrangement whereby I went to some quite local place, like Butler University, but neither my father nor I took that very seriously.
That’s interesting. Mothers haven’t changed much over the years. Were you still at home when your father went to Purdue?
Well, I was in college. His instincts had obviously been on a somewhat fundamental level, and I don’t know exactly how or when he met Dean A.A. Potter of the School of Engineering of Purdue, but he got to know him, possibly through the Indianapolis Literary Club that my father belonged to, and possibly in some other connection. Anyway, I never knew the mechanism of this, but while I was at college, Dean Potter offered my father a professorship at Purdue in the School of Engineering, which I guess was quite a thing then as it would be now, because my father had not had any formal training in engineering. He’d done a lot of original work, and this was sot of a recognition of both that and the fact that he thought in an academic kind of way, and it was known that he would be a good teacher, So he just up and moved. I think that he always felt more at home in the university there than he had in industry, although he was in Indianapolis 17 years, I think.
What kind of influence did your mother have on you?
Well, she was a very warm person, and she, I would say, made the home and my upbringing her main occupation at all times, and this meant that all sorts of things were taken care of, and she was cognizant of them and so on. None of the problems of the working mother no indifference or anything like that. So I felt quite well cared for. But she was not a scientist — her thing was music. She had once been a piano teacher, and she was quite interested in music. She played the piano for her own satisfaction, not professionally at all.
This sort of explains some of your own later interest in music.
I shouldn’t wonder,
I was surprised, I think, to find that you were a madrigal singer at one time, or was that merely a courting ploy on your part?
Oh, I always liked music. I never put in the necessary effort to master any instrument. I took some piano lessons from my mother, but I think everybody was agreeing at the time that this wasn’t the thing to do. If you were going to take lessons, you should take them from somebody else who could have more of the position of a drill sergeant, and so nothing came of that. I fiddled around with ocarinas and fifes and accordions and tenor banjo and all kinds of non—instruments, and never actually did the work to acquire the mastery of any of them, I would say there was probably music in my soul but it never got disciplined to the point of proper execution.
Were there any particularly influential books or teachers that you had during those early years? How early did you decide that you wanted to be a scientist?
Well, I’m not terribly clear about that. .It must have been quite early and more or less instinctive, as far as I can tell. The distinguished teachers that I had were as much in non—scientific fields as scientific, though there were some of both, and nobody ever put any pressure on me to be this or be that, I guess that I kind of drifted into chemistry because I liked it and never found anything in particular to compete with it. The chemistry at Shortridge and the chemistry at Amherst were both adequate for my purpose.
When I was in high school, the American Chemical Society launched a kind of campaign to develop awareness of chemistry among the young, and there was an essay contest, in which you wrote on the relation of chemistry to this and that and the other thing. The only title there that appealed to me was “The Relation of Chemistry to the Enrichment of Life.” I think I entered this contest and never heard from it one way or the other. I was probably tossed out in the first round. They had a few recommended books to try and stimulate public interest in chemistry, and I read those things, and they probably did stimulate interest in chemistry. One of them was called CREATIVE CHEMISTRY, by E.E. Slosson, which was sort of an old chestnut. At Amherst, I looked around at what the possibilities were, and chemistry looked OK, and so I majored in chemistry.
The good fort3lne of chemistry. Tell me a little about Amherst. How were you supported at Amherst? Were there scholarships at that time, or were you pretty much on your own?
They had a general scholarship program which gave you a little something. It didn't cover all of tuition. The thing I remember was that before I ever went to college, my father told me that he could provide $600 a year, and I would have to dig up the rest. I had been taught to save money all my life. I used to work summers mowing s grass, and that kind of stuff, and I had some bank accounts. I don’t remember how much was in them, But between what my father provided and my bank accounts and the fact that I had some kind of outside job at least the first two years in college, I got along. Then there were some special scholarships at Amherst, one of which I got They were sort of based on your academic record, I had a very good academic record at Amherst.
That’s an understatement. It was apparently very superb. You were the first student in four or five years to graduate summa cum laude. That should be put into the record,
Then there was a professor at MIT, Forris Jewett Moore, who wrote a book on the history of chemistry, and when he died, I don’t remember in what year, but probably while I was in college, his widow Mrs. Moore, gave Amherst — I guess Moore was an Amherst graduate teaching at MIT— a Forris Jewett Moore Fellowship, which I believe was $1000 a year, which was available to a graduating senior for graduate study. I got the Moore Fellowship, which enabled me to get through the first year in Harvard graduate school.
During the course of that year I met Mrs. Moore, who still lived in Cambridge. I must have seen her two or three times,id toward the spring of my first year in Harvard, she said that she would like to continue, on a personal basis, this fellowship support for the rest of my graduate career at Harvard. That was indeed very nice. It relieved me of all earthly worries. I never was a teaching assistant. And it meant that I could register for full time work, which you couldn’t if you were a teaching fellow, So this made it possible for me to get through Harvard Graduate School in three years. It’s nothing like the record of Waldemar Adam, that I was looking at recently. He apparently got his degree at MIT in year and a half. I didn’t know anyone ever did that anywhere.
I didn’t realize that.
Well, that took care of the fellowship situation. I must say that I think $600 a year from my father was very generous. He was a frugal sort of person. His salary was, as I found out at some point or other, $3000 a year, and to take $600 of that, 20 percent of his salary it didn’t reduce his expenses at home any, having me away — was something of a sacrifice. All that, I guess, is sort of in proportion to the way things are now. Everything is much more expensive and people have more money, but it still takes doing to get an education.
What about the chemistry courses at Amherst? In retrospect do you think they were fairly up to date? Do you have any vague notions as to what the nature of the atom was at that particular time?
Yes. The introductory course was by an old professor named Arthur Hopkins who was a pretty good teacher, He made it interesting. His thing was certainly not ultra modernity. On the other hand, the course enabled you to go on. Beebe, who had just come on the faculty, was grounded in the then latest ideas in physical chemistry, and Howard Waters Doughty, no relation to me, was an old Johns Hopkins man, also a Remsen product, I believe, like Kohler, and he gave a very interesting organic course. I don’t think I can analyze his teaching or anything, but it was pretty satisfying. It seemed to me had a lot of interesting background material on organic chemistry, and certainly it was the kind of thing I ended up wanting to do, from hearing about it from him. They didn’t have an undergraduate research program at Amherst.
You just took the courses and that was it. I think I do oh gosh, I can’t even remember what kind of special problem I had, but it didn’t amount to what would be a modern senior thesis or senior research at any college at the present time. I think the thing about the instruction at Amherst probably was that they knew what was going on and who was doing it, so that you felt that here you were, ready to go out where these things were going on. It was advice from these people that steered me toward Harvard and Conant. It would never have occurred to me, on the basis of anything else I knew, to go for graduate work at Harvard. In fact, there was sort of a laymen’s view in my family and school back home, which you still hear sometimes —— “Harvard is where people go for the classics, and if you wanted to be a scientists, you should go to MIT,?
I was told in no uncertain terms that Conant was an important organic chemist, and that Harvard was an important graduate school for chemistry, and that, in particular, with my slant, as they sized it up at Amherst, I should work with Conant because of the physical component of organic chemistry that he was interested in.
You already had that orientation.
Well, sure, I guess I’d had that all along. I mean, I liked math, such as I’d had. I didn’t take all the math there was at Amherst, but I took what passed for a fair amount in those days, and so, that was how I got steered toward Harvard,
Did you consider any other graduate schools at that tine?
Oh gosh. I probably considered Columbia. I don’t know whether I went so far as to go to Columbia for an interview, but it was considered to be a pretty good place, too. I suppose I still considered Chicago and Michigan. But I think all this was decided just on the basis of the inside information that I got at Amherst as to who was who.
I asked you about the atom at that time. Were they teaching the Bohr atom and a certain amount of electronic structure, or what?
Well, I think that my most serious consideration of all this came in the course I took the first year in graduate school, at Harvard, from. (Norris F.) Hall. He was a moderately young instructor, and a quite serious scholar and a good lecturer. He was one of the stream of people that have gone through Harvard through the years without getting tenure. He gave a real good course on, I forget what it was called, but this was what there was of atomic structure and how it related to the things that we were all interested in. Certainly the most influential teaching that I encountered in my first year at Harvard was Kohler’s Chemistry 5; Elmer P. Kohler. He was probably 70 or close to it at that time, and he was an old bachelor, a flemsen Ph.D., who bad moved to Harvard from Bryn Mawr in 1910, and was really a person of enormous integrity and very high standards, as well as being just a first class organic chemist and teacher. The course that he gave, I think, never left anyone uninfluenced.
He centered it all around the really important questions and problems, and how these things were solved, and who had done what about them and so on. It was just a great course. Kohler of course had been Conant's research professor, and he was one of the people held in highest respect in the university as a whole. There was something that I don't think ever happened since, but I was told that at the long table at the Faculty Club, where everyone comes in from all over the university to eat lunch, no one (with the exception of E. K. Band) would ever sit at the head of the long table unless they verified that Kohler had been in already and left; as long as he was going to come in, he had to sit at the head of the table. I don't know whether he was actually aware of this himself or not, but this was a general expression, a very rare kind, of expression at Harvard, of the respect that everyone had for him.
Did you consciously try to pattern your Chem 5 course after his course?
Not consciously, but actually, I was not aware of any other way to teach organic chemistry, except basing it on what are the important problems. If there are lots of people who don't do this, why, it probably means that Kohler was very influential on my teaching. It seemed to me that it was pretty axiomatic that this was the right way to go at it.
Before I leave Amherst completely — Doughty's course in organic chemistry was fairly up to date then. Were they talking about mechanisms of organic reactions at that time?
Not in any self conscious way. I think if you asked them how something went, they’d have some view about it, but it wasn’t considered a special topic.
Any other instructors at Amherst? One that kept coming up in a variety of recollections was George Whicher.
He was an English professor. Quite a guy. He was, I guess undoubtedly the most respected medium young member of the Amherst faculty at that time. At our 50th reunion, they distributed a really wonderful memento in the form of a little book collecting George Whicher’s Chapel Ta.lks,something like 32 of them. These were about ten minute talks in which he talked one after another about some of the personalities who had: lived in Amherst; and there’ s a remarkable number of them that he dug up. He also was a very fine teacher.
I guess the reason why the name is familiar to you is that he was instrumental in one of the last Amherst-related things that I did. The summer we graduated, Whicher somehow or other dropped the suggestion that some of us get together and go on an extended mountain climb. Whicher and Beebe and Dave Inglis, Porter Dickinson, a great outer who worked in the Amherst Library, and Ted Palmer, I guess, all got together and started in the Adirondacks. We made a list of places we wanted to be sure and do. We took two weeks, climbing one mountain after another, working our way east, and finally ended up on the Mahoosuc Trail, at the line between New Hampshire and Maine, before we broke up. Ralph Beebe mentioned this to me just Sunday, as one of his really bright recollections of the past.
The faculty obviously took a very personal interest in the students at that time, Are there fellow students that you remember particularly well from that time?
Yes, Dave Inglis, who’s a physicist and very interested in energy control and survival in the atomic age. He goes to the Pugwash meetings, and he was a physicist at the University of Chicago for many years. Then he became a professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and now lives at Amherst and spends the summers in Madison, N.H. Inglis and Palmer and I were joint roomates for the last couple of years in college. Ted Palmer took to teaching math at Rose Polytechnic in Terre Haute, Indiana, where be stayed ail his active life. He was at our 50th reunion. Al Sadler, who was in the cement business in Pennsylvania, lives in Allentown, he was there too. Well, these were all people with some fringe interest in science, although none of them were research chemists, and the ones that I saw the most of all liked to hike and climb.
That was my very next question. You had rather broad interests, the out doors, literature, you seemed to do a lot of out loud reading and singing, and somebody even mentioned that you were interested in the theatre at one time. You always seemed to be a participant in these interests. To what do you attribute the very wide range of interest that you have?
Oh, I don’t know that it’s such a wide range of interests. You might characterize it, as opposed to a lot that you see nowadays, as participation activities. I never sat around watching television or listening to radio, and not very much listening to recorded music, although I like concerts and so on, but I think participant sports and participant hobbies will do much more for people, and it’s too bad that they’ve been so eclipsed by the passive -watching of cooked up entertainment, among the population generally.
Now we’re at Harvard, and you’ve given me a lot of the pre—information that I need. In Kohler’s course, was he talking about rates and mechanisms? Did he talk about problems in organic chemistry? Were they synthetic problems or problems of understanding?
Problems of understanding, and not formally rates or numbers or anything like that. He talked about enolization, for instance, which was well understood in those days because of the work of Lapworth way back. The evidence that acetone brominates by way of an enol is kinetic, and Kohier cited that, not as a branch of some other strange kind of chemistry, but as an observation that you could make in the course of organic work. For example, when you double the concentration of bromine it doesn’t change the rate, so, the acetone must be doing something by itself before the bromine gets a crack at it. And what’s it doing? It's enolizing. This was the type of thing he would do.
This was a known fact, but he must have said something, raised a problem at the time, that made you go back and look at this years later.
Several things that I worked on in my early years were things that were sort of sitting around; problems as presented by Kohler, Kohler said, “Nobody understands why, when you brominate acetone in an acid medium, the first bromine goes on one side, and the second bromine goes on the other side, whereas in an alkaline medium, it goes bang, bang to bromoform all on the same side.” So this was a pretty clear statement that here was a fellow who thought very analytically about this, but didn’t understand it. This was one of the things we worked out in tine. Now, I never knew whether there were other people around who in fact did understand this, or not. But nobody wrote and said “This is old stuff” when we published it.
Yes, I noticed in your early work, and I think this went through all of your work, you were not blowing your own horn at any time and you weren’t saying “I’m the first person to say this.” As a result, in going through some of your papers, I was continually saying to myself, “Gee, is he the first one to say this?” I’m assuming, in most cases you were.
Well, it bugs me more and. more, how important people seem to consider it, to put in words like “first!”, “novel”, “amazing,” and so forth, into the titles of their communications to the editors. I think I’ve figured this out. It took me a long time to accumulate enough representative referee reports to understand that these people are really trying to take an advance precaution against a referee saying, “There’s nothing new in this so it shouldn’t be a communication to the editor.” If it contains the word “novel” in the title, then it’s harder for a referee to say that, unless he documents that it isn’t novel, But at the same time, it’s a terribly self conscious way to write science, and I don’t like it at all.
Yes, I know that, and I think my only criticism was that it certainly would save me a lot of work if you had said “This is novel11 and then I wouldn’t have to go around looking at other papers.
Well, I think its a general principle that if you really look, thoroughly, you can find everything that’s ever been said foreshadowed somewhere else, but not pulled together.
We talked a little about this, and I meant to look at the 1925-30Harvard catalogues. Do you remember the term “physical organic chemistry" being used in those early days when you were a student at Harvard?
Yes. Norris Hall and Conant had a seminar, I think they had it one semester anyway, something that they called physical organic round table or something, where they got together and talked about some of these things. And then Conant gave an advanced course, which was supposed to be beyond the level of Chem 5, called Chem 17, He alternated between his two chief ongoing interests -- 17a, which he gave one year for a semester, was called physical organic chemistry, I think, or maybe that wasn’t even in the title but it was understood that thates what it was, and 17b was natural products chemistry. Conant gave these two courses in alternating years. That’s where the term was used, but nobody made very much of it.
Do you have any recollection of other people who were doing that kind of work at that time; who were already interested in kinetics and quantitative measurement? Certainly Conant was.
Well, a lot of this came from England, of courseS Lapworth, way back. Ingold did quite a lot of it.
OK, Ingold was already doing that work. Lapworth bad done it 25 years before -
And that of course is one of the interestingpoints. I wonder if you considered the fact that there was that lapse in time. Here there were people like Lapworth and maybe Acree doing things at the turn of the century, and subsequently there was a lapse of 20 or 25 years, and then people started doing quantitative measurements again.
I guess it’s just that the personalities of the individuals in chemistry were so diverse. Everybody would do his thing and not anybody else’s. I guess in a way it’s also a commentary on the snail population of people in organic chemistry at that time. You can hardly find anything nowadays that somebody isn’t working on, but there just weren’t that many people than, and when somebody was excited about sàmething, that was the thing that got worked on.
You’d pretty much made up your mind to work for Conant before you got to Harvard?
Well, yes, I did, because at Doughty’s suggestion, I went dom to Cambridge to see Conant, and I looked him up, in this untidy laboratory in Boyleston Hall, and talked about this and that, and I didn’t get any feeling from talking to him at that time that it would be great fun to work for him or anything like that. He just told me what sorts of things he di and that sort of confirmed what had heard. It was a year before I could start doing research anyvay, because I came in from a small college and there were some things that I hadn’t had, I spent a whole year talking courses at Harvard, before enrolling in research, and I also worked in the summers, so at the end of my first year at Harvard, I had a summer job, and I didn’t start research until September, l929
Where did you work? Indianapolis? -
No, In 1929 I did tutoring on Cape Cod
It wasn’t a chemical job?
No One summer, it was In the summer of 1930 I worked at the General Electric Research Lab with R H Kienle
Did you talk to anyone else besides Conant before starting researh?
Well, if I did it didn’t make much impression on me, and if I started to talk to Kohler about it, it got cut short in some such way as Kohier saying, “Well, you’re someone who should work with Conant. .“ People who weren’t interested in the quantitative side were keenly aware when there was. someone who was.
Who were the other organic chemists at that time?
Well, I believe that when I arrived at Harvard, there was no other tenured organic chemist, The second year I was there, Fieser was called in. He had been teaching at Bryn Mawr, as Kohler had before he came to Harvard.
He came as an instructor that early.
Probably an assistant professor, since he’d already been doing some teaching.
Who was chairman, do you remember?
Gregory Paul Baxter, the atonic weight man.
Just for the record, do you remember some of the other people on the staff?
Oh, I remember them all. I don’t know if that helps your record much.
I can supplement my own record by looking in the catalogue, so we will save time by not going over them all, unless you have any. commenLts to make about any of them. Was Richards still around?
Richards died the spring before I arrived there.
Forbes became the senior physical chemist at the time?
Well, Baxter and Lamb were there, but Forbes may have been senior to either Baxter or Lamb, Jones was there also, Grinnell Jones.
Was he still offering a course in industrial chemistry. Louis Hammett mentioned that he had a course in industrial chemistry from Jones, around 1913 or ‘l I guess.
What sort of a fellow was Conant? How much direction did he give you?
Well, he was of course a very, very, energetic, dynamic sort of person. He did not give detailed directions to people. He expected people to be smart, to get the overail idea, to go back and plan their momment by moment strategy, and tell him when they’d found something. I must say that I respect this as the scientifically valid approach, rather than somebody that tells you in every detail what to do next. I guess that somewhere in between is the ideal. Conant would come around to the lab, I don’t know how often, not as much as every day, and check rather briefly with people as to what they were doing. I think a fairly characteristic thing, when you think of Conant in comparison to many of the professors of song and story, is that he would say, “And what are you going to do next?” Implying that this was your problem, of course you had thought about it, and. of course you had some idea what you were going to do next. If he didn’t think this was a good idea that you had, he’d tell you, but you were supposed to have it.
Were there other students in his group at the time that you remember?
Well, the one who operated nearest to me was Henry Scherp, who later went into sort of medical chemistry. He went to the Rockefeller Institute. don’t know what he did in later years. We never intersected scientifically after 1932. Bill (G.W.) Wheland was in the same lab, except that he became the key instructor in Chem 20, and then moved up onto the second floor of Mallinkrodt, so after the first year, we didn’t see him so much. Who else? Well, I may think of some others. Those were the ones that I saw the most of on the first floor of Converse. Luther B. Arnold, Bacon F. Chow and Alsoph H. Corwin were fellow students of Conant.
Max Tishler was there about the same time too, Do you remember him?
Yes. He was on the third floor of Converse. He was associated directly with ICohler.
Who were, as far as you can remember, the most influential, members of the faculty at that time at Harvard? Do you remember any people nationally who were influential in chemistry?
Well, as far as I was concerned, ICohler was the most influential person, because organic was his domain, and he presented it so well. Kistiakowsky (George) came on the faculty about 1930.
He didn’t start at Harvard?
He came from Princeton. Of course, in the United States as a whole, it was taken as axiomatic that the chief focus of organic chemistry was at the University of Illinois, and they had not only Roger Adams but C.S. Marvel and (Reynold) G. Fuson and Ralph Shriner who later moved to SMU. I always thought it was a very cohesive group, and yet they all scattered before they reached the actual retirement age. Only Roger Adams stayed behind. And then he got a lot of people who provided much more differentiation in the organic chemistry at Illinois, and brought it considerable distinction.
How did you arrive at the particular research topic that you did as a graduate student?
Well, I donut think there was any particular choice offered. Conant presented some of the comments from the literature showing that nobody really understood what went on when a ketone formed a phenyl-. hydrazone or something like that, and people would make mutually inconsistent comments, and he thought that it was probably something that could be cleaned up by somebody really analyzing it. That sort of appealed to me, so I took it on. I remember that fairly early in the game, Conant said, “Anyone can identify a good research problem. The real work of it is to find something that you can do that works. If you want to measure something, find, something that you can measure with validity,” So the first part of that problem was to select the kind of ketone derivative that we would actually work on. We chose the semi—carbazone, and I was able to show that semicarbazide could be accurately titrated with iodine. That, in Conant’s opinion, was a very key point, because we couldn’t have any of this business of doing a reaction and watching it and deciding that by and large it went or didn’t go. You had to have a measure of it. So we could do accurate kinetics with the iodometric titration of semicarbazide and that was the start of that.
That was your first publication and that just had your name on it 
When we were deciding how to publish the whole thing, he decided the main discussion shouldn’t be cluttered up with details like that, but that it was important, and he just didn’t have time to write it. So he wanted me to write that part of it. It’s just as joint as any other part of the work.
You carried out a fairly complex mathematical treatment of the kinetics at that time, and it was sort of a hallmark of your later papers.
It wasn’t very complex.
Oh, for that time I think it was.
The thing that was new was that the formation of a semicarbazone was an equilibrium reaction. You could bring the whole thing to equilibrium. You could titrate and show what the position of the equilibrium was, The rate of formation of a semicarbazone was catalyzed in two ways. It responded to the pH of a solution, but if you took different buffer solutions with the same pH, the more concentrated buffer solution made the semi— carbazone form faster. Well, this was Br%nsted catalysis. This was proton donors. Every proton donor species in there was promoting the formation of semicarbazones at its own rate. And so the only complex thing was that you had to sum up the catalysis due to one species and due to another species, and when we had that done, we had a complete picture of what was going on.
From my reading of that paper and later papers, you seemed to enjoy working out the details of relatively complicated kinetic situations.
I don’t think that’s true. No, I don’t insist that it be complicated. I just insist that when you get through, you understand it. If it’s simple and you can do that, so much the better.
Was the mathematics or the working out of the kinetics your job, or was it Conant’s?
That was my job, yes He had a keen appreciation of it, but be did not sit down and work out that part of the research any more than any other part. That was my problem, and he reviewed it to see if it was being done right.
In l93l-32, you were a National Research Fellow, You went to work ith P.A. Levene at the Rockefeller Institute, I believe. What made you boose to work for Levene?
Well, there were two components of that. Conant always felt that you must go on to more important things than you were on, and he felt that clearly an end use of organic chemistry on any level was to get into the biochemical side. Also there was a big Depression in 1931 —— nobody was getting jobs at all. Conant was on the board of the Rockefeller Institute, and he knew Levene, and he felt confident that he could get me in there, This was before I knew that I was getting a National Research Fellowship, which you count on at all. Levene, of course, had two lines of activity. He was very interested In nucleic acids, and he also, for many years, had been carrying on a systematic program of correlating configuration with the optical rotation of different compounds, where you had to replace one group with another, and see how the rotation changed and so on. Putting all these things together, it seemed that the thing for me to do was to work on that aspect of Levene’s work at the Rockefeller Institute, and when I got a National Research Fellowship, I went ahead and used it that way. I don’t feel that that was in the direct line of my career at all. If I’d been a different kind of person, I might have picked up all sorts of stuff by osmosis at the Rockefeller Institute, but I didn’t. I mean, I just never evolved into an even peripheral biochemist, and I think this was probably a disappointment to Conant, because by his way of analyzing these things, I think it marked me as someone who had reached my high point and wasn?t going anywhere from then on.
Who funded the National Research Fellowship?
The National Research Council, which is a branch of or it’s a creature of the National Academy of Science, which for many years maintained a small number of these fellowships. They were entirely independent. They’d give them to selected new PhDs who could do anything they liked with them; go anywhere that would take them in, pay their bills, and work on anything they chose. I might have used a National Research Fellowship more imaginatively than to go and work with Levene on correlating configurations, but I didn’t know my way around very well.
Do you have any vague recollection as to how much that feiowsbip was? How much money did they give you?
At a rough guess, $21OO a year, something like that.
You were, by that time, supporting a wife on that,
Well, she had a job. She was a social worker and she had an independent job in New york
That certainly helped out. You were at Rockefeller and also at Columbia?
Well, the thing about Columbia was that I knew some people there. I went around, got acquainted with J. N. Nelson, the organic professor there, and I was keenly aware that there were a few loose ends to my thesis. Here was a problem that I was thoroughly into, and I knw just what to do to resolve it. So I got permission from Nelson to cpme in nights and Sundays at Columbia, and work on the problem. That was what that third paper of mine was. The loose ends were resolved by showing, as I recall, that there were some incompletely dissociated salts in some of these buffers, where we were getting the rates of semicarbazone formation. This was something, I think, not entirely in the current thinking. When you formed an ammoniuin. salt you were supposed to transfer a proton from the original acid over to the ammonia, and then you had an ainmonium ion in the original acid, and the concept of a hydrogen bonded ion pair was not well established. This showed that you had to have such an ion pair, at least in this particular case. It was, of course, very much of a footnote to a footnote. Conant was right to say that he didnt think that was a very good area for me to expand into but I felt that as something to do nights and Sundays while I was doing this other thing, it wasn’t bad.
Yes, and, it did suppose did you no harm. for help. I suspect they mention (Louis) Hammett. article in the Red Book. know him at all? result in an independent paper, which I In that paper, you cite LaMer and Nelson discussed the problem with you. You didn’t Stan Tarbell also mentions that in his Did you meet Hammett at that time? Did you
I must have met Haimriett, and. I must not have had very much contact with him. It may be that when I did have discussion with Rammett, I discussed the things that he was currently interested in, rather than the things that I was interested in. Of course my thanks to Nelson were administrative. He was running the laboratory. I dont remember what contributions La Mer had made to the paper.
He was a physical chemist.
Well, I know him. I just don’t remember what heed done in this connection.
I see, I vaguely remember Haett had published a paper cailed “The Theory of Acidity” back in 1928. Do you remember being aware of that by 1931 or ‘32?
It certainly wasn’t uppermost in my mind. Hammett’s book didn’t come out until l91O,
That’s right, yes, and you did review that. In fact. I wanted to talk about that review later on if we can get to it. You predicted that it would be influential. Your work with Levene was of a stereochemical nature. Do you think that had anything to do with the work you did almost immediately afterwards on stereochemistry?
Well, I don’t think so. I got some practical experience in resolving things, but I didn’t do much resolving after that. So I’ve never been able to see that that work with Levene was in the line of my career at all.
I think Ted Palmer wrote that there was some question as to whether the time to get married in 1931 was very appropriate. What made ‘ou take the plunge at that particular time?
Why does anyone get married when he does?
OK. What was Lou’ s (Mrs. Bartlett) background?
Well, she was a Radcliffe graduate, class of ‘30, and, her original home was in Nashville. She got interested in social work while she was in Radcliffe, and got a job in New York, in ‘30—’3l, which was the last year I was at Harvard, and it was, of course very convenient, with us getting married at that time and my doing post doctoral work at the Rockefeller Institute. She just kept the same job when we lived in New York, I don’t remember that being an important influence in my deciding what to do, but it must have been an influence. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.
How do you think she’s been influenced by your career as a scientist? She was not a scientist.
You1d have to ask her that.
QIC. What kind of a role has she played in your career?
Well, she’s certainly been a very good wife. She’s always seen to it that the things that she could contribute to my veil being were contributed. I never wondered where my next meal was coming from or anything like that, and she’s a person of considerable taste. She has always produced good tasteful surroundings for us to live in. Ithink she’s been consciously undemanding of my time in any way that would divert my attention from where we both thought it belonged, namely, on my career and problems. This has been possible because she has cultivated more independence than her temperament alone would have required. This is especially notable in our move to Fort Worth, involving a fresh start for her which many people couldn’t have made. She has established a position in circles having nothing to do with the University.
From New York you went to Minnesota?
How did you hear of that job?
Did you apply for other jobs? What was the job situation like at the time?
Well, it was all kind of funny. The job situation of course was terrible, much worse than it’s ever been since. This was the depth of the DepressiOn. I think I was pretty unconscious of that. I was busy with the things I was doing, and it had been my observation that you got jobs through your advisors, who heard of them through people who wanted to fill the jobs, and I just sort of let it come up. But I remember, when I had the offer from Minnesota, I wrote to Conant, and said,”You may not be able to advise me on this, but I’d like to )now if tber&s anything I should know about whether to accept this job or not” kind of thing, and he wrote back by return mail, “This is one time when I can give advice without any reservations: ACCEPT THE JOB AT ONCE BEFORE THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO CHANGE THEIR ?t[NDS!”
Again I have to ask about salary. Do you have any idea what! the starting salary was?
I do indeed. The salary I was offered was $2100, and I didn’t see how I could move to Minnesota, support a wife in a strange place, and so on, on that. I wrote back to the dean saying, “Well, if it were such and such I could undoubtedly take it, “and I got a telegram back saying” “Salary available is $2100.” By then I had Conant’s reply, and I accepted it before they had a chance to change their minds. Then the first thing that happened when I got to Minnesota was that I was handed a sheet of paper that said, “In view of the serious situation in the Depression,I hereby vo1untar1y remit $100 of my salary to the state of Minnesota,” and there was a place for my signature. So the salary was acuaily $2000,
Without a working wife, and in the Depression. Were they looking fox an organic chemist at that particular time?
They were looking for two organic chemists. They took on Fred Koelsch and me at the same time.
And Koelach caine from?
Wisconsin He was a McElvain man.
By that time, did you consider yourself a physical organic chemist? Or did people talk about physical organic chemistry?
No. No, I never did consider myself a physical organic chemist. The things I did were one of the ways of investigating organic chemistry.
All right. Who was the chairman at Minnesota?
Lee Irvin Smith.
What was his style in terms of running the department?
Lee Smith? Well, he was a very earnest organic chemist, and a tremendous admirer of Kohler. When I said that I got this job through Conant, I suspect that actually I got it through Kohler, because Lee Irvin Smith would have written to Kohler, and he would do what Kohler told him, no matter what.
Was he a former student of Kohlerts?
Who were other people on the faculty?
Walter Lauer, in organic, that is. Smith, Lauer, Koelsch and I were the organic people. I.M. Kolthoff was the analytical man there, and S.C. Lind, Samuel C. Lind, was the physical man, and one or two younger feiows in other branches that I don’t remember that much about. But the ones that I saw every day were Smith, Lauer and Koëlsch,
Were they as interested in organic mechanisms as you were? What were their interests?
I think they were quite interested in mechanisms, but they didn’t all use the same methods. Koelsch was very largely interested in synthesis, and he was sort of proverbial before he got there, as the man who could synthesize almost anything. He loved to work with his hands, and I was told that he still does, in his retirement. He did. a lot elegant work on free radicals, stable radical structures.
You were talking about Koelsch and some of the things heed been fdoing.
Yes. We later used a free radical of Keolsch’s as a radical counter, one that doesn’t react with anything except other free radicals. It was an allylic radical, substituted with a fluorene on both ends,, and a phenyl in the middle dibiphenylenephenylallyl radical, and it’s far more stable than triphenylmethyl or any of these things. Well, that was the sort of thing that he liked to do. He did a lot of elegant synthetic work of that sort. He had a much better start, really, when he came than I did. He was pushing along the things that he was already launched on, and I was casting about for somethings to find out.
What were the facilities like at Minnesota?
Well, of course, this is before the day of fancy instrumentation; for its ‘time, the facilities were fine. We had everything we needed, It was largely a matter of doing a lot of work with your own hands, and doing your own analyses, and all that stuff, as one did in those days.
Did they have a PhD program there?
I ask because I think the students you had there were both Masters students. -
I think. that’s because they chose to stop or because I left. I wasn’t there long enough for them to complete a PhD with me.
Yes, of course. What courses did you teach there?
Well, I taught organic to premedics, predents and pre- nursing students at one point. This was sort of a baptism of fire, When I started in, they just didn’t know what I was talking about, I had to back up.
Do you remember any textbooks that were particularly significant at the time? Bartlett No.
Any textbooks from your own graduate work? You mentioned the lectures of Kohler, but any readings that they gave you at the time that were impprtant for you?
No. I was quite interested in the books that came out later. The books that were available when I was in graduate school were very classical. Karrer’s Organic Chemistry, and such. But I think some much better ones came out a few years later.
How did you go about getting students at Minnesota?
Oh, they’d come and knock on the door and talk to me about research, and I would see if they liked the problems I gave them.
About how much time do you think you spent on research? How was your time allotted?
I can’t tell you that, either there or at Harvard later. It’s a fair amount of work maintaining a course, and there was always a conflict between these things. I just don’t know how it adds up.
Did you ever resent the teaching, with respect to the research, or do you think one contributed to the other, or do you think! one can be done without the other?
Well, obviously the teaching is essential, and at Harvard the position is very clearly that you’re hired to teach. If you want to amuse yourself with this frothy thing called research, why, you do it on your own responsibility, just so you get your teaching done. That was the atmosphere that I lived under all the time that I was at Harvard.
I see. That’s odd, but of course your promotion and your tenure is all based on that “frothy thing.” Or did you feel it was that way?
Well, this is the official university position. Harvard. really took some of these things harder than most places. If you were accepting any speaking engagements that caused you to miss a class, you were supposed to tell the dean what arrangements you had made to have that taken care of and so on, You were not supposed to be away for more than X days anyway, come hell or high water.
I know in later years you kept fairly regular hours, although you were there a good deal of the time. Did you start out keeping fairly regular hours at Minnesota, as a beginning instructor? Or were you working weekends and nights as well?
Well, by regular hours, do you mean 9 to 5, Monday through Friday kind of thing.
I guess so.
I never felt that I was limited to such hours. But of course, -the mechanics of living make it much simpler to have some regular times when you go in and out, rather than doing it at complete random. That’s - where the regularity of hours comes in. I did go in Saturday quite a lot.
Onyes, that I remember. That was also a regular part of your schedule, so I wasn’t really thinking of Monday through Friday. The problem that you first worked on, the acid and base catalyzed enoljzatjon of ke-tones. Did you discuss that problem with anyone before you really -started work on it? You have already mentioned Kohler’s lectures as the origin of the problem.
Well, I don’t think so, My colleagues knew what I was doing, but I don’t remember going about seeking ideas about it. That was one problem where I had a fairly clear idea of what should be done.
It seems that you learned something from the Conant days. In the iodination of menthone, I thought you had come up with a rather clever way of making the equilibrium irreversible. I think you ran the reaction in a nitric acid acetic acid solution, and the nitric acid consumed the HI. Do you recall whether that had given you any problems at the beginning?
No, I don’t remember much about that
You published a paper with Vincent, and then you published a per on your own,  on the multiple halogenation of ketones in base solution where you suggested reasons why, in base solution, all of the halogenation would take place on the same carbon In this paper, you wrote two structures for the enol, one with the charge on carbon and one with the charge on oxygen, and you wrote equilibrium arrows Now, that’s not a startling mistake considering the time The question I have is, when did people start using the double headed arrows for resonance structures? Or when was the distinction made between resonance structures and fast equilibria?
Well, shortly after Pauling’s book or by the time of Pauling’s book, NATURE OF THE CIECAI BOND, this distinction was clear in everybody’s mindS I guess that was after I left Minnesota
You used inductive effects a couple of times, to explain certain structural effects; was inductive effect a fairly common byword at that particular time? I don’t know if you used the words “inductive effect” but it was certainly the same thing You were talking about the pull and push of electronic charge
Yes, I think that was a fairly entrenched concept
As far as you know that paper on the multiple halogenation of ketones, was the first really complete exposition of that idea.
I think so. Yes.
As you said before, you didn’t get any flak from the general coiaunity suggesting it was not new. You did some work with Grignard reagents with a fellow by the maine of Berry.  Some people attach your name to that reaction and call it the Bartlett-Berry reaction. Do you remember that at all?
What was the reaction?
I think you used a dialkylmagnesium as opposed to mono—alkyl- magnesium halide on an epoxide. I can’t remember the result now.
Oh, If you had halogen there, you just rearranged the epoxide to anjaldehyde first and then the Grignard reacted with that, and if you didn’t have halogen the epoxide stayed put until it was attacked.
Do you have any idea what happened to Vincent and Rosenwald?
Vincent died, and I’ve seen Rosenwald from time to time, He’s I guess, still around Minneapolis.
They both continued to work in chemistry?
Well, let’s see — what did Vincent do? I can’t think for the life of me, what he did. I think he stayed in chemistry. I also don’t know how much further they went academically. I think Rosenwald at least got a Ph.D. Vincent came to Harvard and worked as private assistant for me, One summer.
In the last paper from Minnesota, which was probably written at Harvard, you thank the University of Minnesota for a grant from research funds. Were there many research funds around at the time? W’hat was the origin of these research funds, do you have any idea?
I don’t remember the details of that. It was probably one of these things where the department chairman had $8oó a year to dispense, and you’re glad to get $200 of it to buy some stuff, There was nothing corresponding to the NSF or NIH or any of that, in those days. The university that wanted research done had to try to pay for it.
You did not seek outside funds at any time?
I don’t remember doing so, from Minnesota. And I never went on the warpath to get any, but I have had outside funds from various bodies from time to time, which are acknowledged in the publications. The Universal Oil Products Co. supported something once, and B.F. Goodrich did and PPG did.
These were all later, early forties and so on.
All right, Then in ‘3), you left Minnesota togo to Harvard. I have to go through and ask all the sane questions--.how did you hear of the job?
I heard of the job by a letter from Kohler, saying, “I’m glad to say that the faculty has voted to invite you to join the staff,”
You didn’t write Conant to ask whether you should accept that time,
No, Conant of course had just become president of Harvard, This was a very modest job. It was a faculty instructorship, so called.
Well, it was higher than an annual instructorship, because this was a three year appointment. And at the end of the three years, you were supposed to get promoted, or leave. There was some such language in Kohler’s letter —— “The faculty after careful thought feels confident that you will earn your promotion.
That probably was more of an inducement to come, I suspect. Did you have any doubts about going?
I don’t think I really did No. It was fairly clear that when they were reaching out like that, they felt they knew what they were doing.
Again I have to ask, what was the starting salary at Harvard?
Oh, that was an absolutely munificent $3600.
That was almost double what I was getting at Minnesota, And with it went the option of teaching at Radcliffe for an extra $800 or something like that, and I taught Chem 5 at Radcliffe for several years, the course that Kohler was teaching at Harvard.
How many years later was it that they allowed the Radcliffe girls to come in and hear the same (Harvard) lectures?
Only during World War II, when manpower was so scarce.
I see, It had nothing to do with Women’s Liberation.
Well, they all sort of went together.
Who was chairman at that time at Harvard?
Kohier was chairman. You taught the Chem 5 course at Radcliffe. What other teaching did you do?
The first two years I was there, I guess I gave the elementary general chemistry, Chem B, a course for people who had bad chemistry in school. I don’t remember much about it. I always tried to do a.responsible job, but I was not inspired by it and never heard that any of my students were inspired by it. Then, the year that Kohler died, which was 1936, I had a chance to take over Chem 5, which I did.
Chem 5 was the advanced organic course?
Do you remember what textbook you used at that time?
Never used a textbook in Chem 5.
Did you teach the undergraduate course in organic at any time?
No. Oh, in the summer school, once or twice.
How did you go about getting graduate students? Did they come knocking at the door?
Yes, sane system. It was an article of faith in the department that a graduate student was supposed to talk to everybody before he made up his mind whom to work with.
All right. Now you had another group of colleagues. Who were the people that were closest to you on the staff at the beginning, who did you talk to?
Well, Fieser was entrenched by then. I didn’t have very much in common with him but we got along all right. Kistiakowsky was more entrenched. Kohier, for two years, was a great resource, and by that time, Woodward had appeared on the scene, His fame had spread, as this student at MIT that they couldn’t think what to do with, because he was so much brighter than anyone was supposed to be, and Kohler hired him as a private research assistant, and then, during that year, I think, he was elected to the Society of Feilows, and then he resigned from the Society of Fellows in order to become my instructor in Chem 5, when the war came along.
Chem 5 was a lab course at that time?
Yes, had a lab course attached to it. And let’s see——who else? I don’t remember what year Henry Bent left Harvard to go to Missouri or wherever it was he went, He was a very nice all around physical chemist type, that you could talk to about problems. Sprague Coolidge was there right along, as a lecturer, I didn’t have a great deal to do with him, but I’d see him around, and then of course, the old timers, Lamb and Baxter were there, and Lingane was brought in about the same time. Corey came much later, I don’t know just when,
Oh yes, Corey came, during the period that I was a graduate student, I think, so it was really much later.
There wasn’t anyone I think whose regular office was in the basement until Corey came, was there?
No. No, I don’t think so. That office was part of the library. Woodward nay have used the laboratories for post—docs. By this time, who were the people whose work you looked to, in terms of the same kind of appraoch to organic chemistry, both in this country and else1here?
Well, of course, (Christopher) Ingoldts work was of great interest, and the California school was very important.
Who was there?
Well, (W.G.) Young was the central figure at UCLA, (Saul) Winstein and (John D..) Roberts were coming along, and (Howard) Lucas was the senior man.
Now, wait a minute, we may be jumping ahead. Lucas was there before, but Roberts didn’t go West until some time in the forties, did he?
Oh well, he did his undergraduate and graduate work there, at UCLA.
And Winstein also came from there?
So they were a very essential part of the life of Lucas and. Young, back in the thirties. Early thirties. Then there was a bunch of people at Berkeley who did measurements, I guess I never really got to know them, but there was T.D. Stewart, who was very good, and Branch and (Melvin) Calvin, who came out with a book, 1 guess they sort of put some fire in some of the quantitative approach people bad. G.N. Lewis was very important. All this of course was before 1930 — the Lewis thing, the Lewis contribution to structure and bonding was very early.
When did it become important for organic chemists?
Oh, as soon as organic chemists began thinking about those things. It was in the courses when I was in graduate school at Harvard, so, I don’t think I was aware of the dating of it particula.rly, but it was definitely recognized by organic chemists. It was certainly in the thinking of Lucas all the time, and therefore of Young. Winstein and Roberts were brought up in an atmosphere in which this was quite implicit. Other people interested in figuring out organic chemistry would of course have to include (Morris) IGiarasch, and his school, and Hauser. Someone mentioned today that Hauser doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, oxie of the people that we all take for granted, and I think this is true.
He was where?
We talked about Robinson (Robert) at lunch, and his claims to being the originator of organic theory, maybe as early as the early 1920’s.
Well, as I said, I think there was a great difference in temperament between Robinson and Ingold, that determined their approaches. And Robinson could not have done any of the separation into mechanisms, the critical tests, between SN 1 and SN 2, and that kind of thing. I think that his general attitude was that such picayune distinctions were beneath the dignity of a really great thinker. H&s dealing with fundamental tendencies. He had them all probably correct, except that unfortunately nature has to have a mechanism for doing things too. If youtre not interested in that, youtre being a little conceited. So it was Ingold that really got down to brass tacks on some of these things.
There were other people in Ingold’s school, and I don’t know if they can be separated from Ingold or not—-Jiughes for example.
Well, Hughes was a very hard to assess, —— Hughes and Ingold was almost one word for so many years, and I think Hughes would carry out almost anything that Ingold needed done, and it was obviously very essential that 1there be somebody like that around. But I don’t know what his role was with respect to the ideas.
I see. How about Wheland’s work on resonance? That was an offshoot of his work with Pauling. Do you know if that had much of an impact before the war?
Oh, I think so. I have extreme difficulty at the present time evaluating the work of people who plug a computer program in, and read it off and tell you how things are, without ever doing a critical experiment. And it’s very hard to say just how important is the transition from the general ideas, whose test is in their total consistency, to the calculations in detail, which are utterly unverifiable. That is, how important are calculations for which there is no direct measurement, and some of whichare in direct conflict with others? I don’t know where this is all going to end. I have great sympathy with people wanting to know how close you can come to ab initic predictions, but I’ve seen so many examples of where somebodys so bemused with the beauty of his own conclusions that be tries to dragoon others into taking him at face value, and it turns out not to be so. I think somehow or other, we have to keep in mind that finding out how things really are is basically an experimental problem. And so what if it’s very hard to devise the experiments? That is still the assignment.
That’s a pretty clear statement of some of the principles that guided your work. /You reviewed a book by W. Hickel in the mid l930s, that dealt with1theoretical organic chemisty
More like ‘31. I remember, reading those things when I was at the Rockefeller Institute. This was “Theoretische Gruhdlagen der organischen Chemie.”
That’s right. You wrote a review of the second edition in l935, It’s interesting that you were always being called upon to review these German texts.
That was Arthur B. Lamb’s doing. He was the editor of the JOURTAL at that time, and he called on me for quite a lot of this stuff,
Where did your German come from? Your interest was first stimulated in 2nd grade.
Well, I then took German in college. In fact I could have used it as a second major. The major at Amherst was three successive years of something, and you could take two majors. My first major was chemistry and my second was English, but I had three courses in German.
So you were relatively fluent.
Well, let’s say I was conversant with the written language.
How did this book on theoretical organic chemistry by Huckel influence you? Did it really tie together the theories of the times?
Yes, I thought it was pretty good.
I notice, in 1938 you reviewed a book by a fellow by the nameof H.B. Watson, Oxford University Press, called MODERN THEORIES OF ORGANIC CHEMISTRY.  Do you have any recollection of that?
Well, I haven’t gone back to re—read it lately, but I was favorably impressed with that because he had much less gobbledegook than Ingold, and he presented the things as problems that could be tested. It was much better stuff to read than the Ingold papers of that time.
Your first xnajo papers from Harvard were those with (Stan) Tarbell,  What set you thinking about the addition problem, methyl hypobromite to stilbene?
I guess I don’t know specifically. It was probably reading Ingold.
Oh, You established that it was actually the bromine that was the reagent that was doing the work. From reading the paper, I had the feeling that the two step mechanism had been proposed at some earlier time andthis work seemed to establish it fairly clearly. Is that your recollection, or do you feel it was established before that?
Well, my recollection is that somebody like Robinson would sort of take Br plus out of the air and put it on first without worrying exactly what species it existed as, and the thing that was specific, newly specific about this, was that we dealt with the process of taking the bromine from the place where it was, and putting it onto the place where it was going to be positive bromine, and showed that ther was no intermediacy of Br plus as such. This is much more down to earth than anything that Robinson had proposed, although the basic idea that it was Br with a positive charge doing it was absolutely correct. That involved a lot of insight. But I was interested in how it actually got that way.
You didn’t mention the sterochemistry in that paper, although in the nect Tarbell paper,  I think you made reference to the fact that you only got one d.iastereomer from trans — stilbene and bromine. I wonder if you have any recollection of just ignoring the sterochemistry at that time?
I don’t think we ignored any sterochemistry at that time. I should re—read that paper and see what we did say.
In the next Tarbell paper  you were very much interested in the sterochemistry. That paper involved the closing and opening of rings and you isolated the beta—lactones. Tarbell went to work with Adams after he left your laboratory. Was that your recommendation?
The next important papers were those with lrving Pockel.  He was a post-doc, I think.
No. He was a graduate student who never wrote his thesis, I believe.
I see. Do you know what happened to him?
He got into business, somehow or other. I think he became anixdependent consultant in the Boston district, and never reared his headj all the rest of the time I was there, although he was definitely theie, He had an office in Boston or on the North Shore somewhere, and he just severed himself completely from his academic background.
Thatts interesting. He certainly did a nice piece of work on the rearrangements.
He was very good.
I take it at Harvard you had no difficulty getting students in the thirties. How were they supported?
Well, mostly they took teaching fellowships. That was the standard way for a graduate student to be supported. I didn’t actually have very many post—docs. It was mostly graduate students. There was, at Harvard, a so called Chemical Research Fund which was divided up, egalitarianly, among the faculty, and I think the individual faculty members shared it. It was around $2000 to $2100 a year. You used this to buy the stuff that you absolutely had to have. When it caine to instrumentation, this of course was quite a revolution, the major instruments, like spectrometers and NMR’s and stuff, the department scurried around a little bit and got on a departmental basis. And the instruments like vapor chron.tographs and the smaller spectrometers and stuff, the individual professors got out of what grants they could get. But this instrumentation explosion was about contemporaneous, I believe, with the growth of the foundations that supported research, like NSF and NIH.
This started after World War II, when money became available for instrumentation.
Yes. You might say that, quite conceivabJy, some of these instruments would never have been developed if the only public for buying them had been as impoverished as the universities and their researchers were prior to the NSF and NIH.
How did you go about selecting graduate students? Did you occasionally turn people away?
Well, yes. But of course the average graduate student at Harvard is a.fairly good bet. So I didn’t in general turn people away. And in fact, I didn’t often have to. If after hearing my story and talking to my people they wanted to work with me, it was probably a sign that they should.
I think from my own experience, that’s probably pretty accurate. How about post-docs?
Well, they were always a mixed bag, I got some National Research Fellows and traveling fellows from here andthere, My earliest post-docs were on things like the PPG fellowships and the B.F. Goodrich research project, and just a few under UOP and a few under Mallinkrodt support. Then during the last 20 years I suppose, I’ve had an NSF grant, and maybe half that time an NIH grant, and these weren’t very large things but I’d sometimes have a post—doc under them,
And you usually accepted your post-docs on the basis of recommendations?
Yes, pretty much. I think thern record of accomplishment of the graduate students on the whole is better than that of the post-docs, and part of this is that a post—doc often has the idea that he should come for just a year, and it takes you a year to get your hand in, on almost anything, so it’s not as good a medium for getting things done. r
1 think I want to get to some other aspects of your career, besides the other 150 papers or so we haven’t yet covered, Those I hope to cover at another time,. We were talking about a definition of physical organic chemistry, and you said on the one hand, it was too broad, and on the other was too narrow. I wonder if you’d care to expand on that, talk about your °fl definition, if there is one.
Well, as I guess I told you before, I consider myself an organic chemist interested in mechanisms. And I’m interested in finding out mechanisms, not just by physical methods, but by whatever appears to be the appropriate method, and it’s usually a convergence of different methods. I don’t see the need of a definition of physical organic chemistry.
Only for someone who’s writing its history. Maybe physical organic chemistry is just the theory of organic chemistry, and people just didn’t pay much attention to that until just before you got started. You did say that you didn’t think a lot of the research being done with instruments, either to induce organic chemicals to do things, or just to measure new phenomena, should be placed in the category of physical organic chemistry. I don’t know what you had in mind there. I think maybe it was just the measurement of spectra under a vart/et of conditions or things like that.
Yes, I think someone who does nothing but try to correlate 0—13 MIiR spectra with structure would consider himself a physical organic chemist, But if that’s all he does, I think he misses the whole point of organic chemistry. Or else, what it means is that there are some specialties that are such bottomless pits that it’s bad news to get into one.
During the Depression years, what was the general job situation? Were you concerned about your own job at any time?
No, I don’t think I was. The mechanism of getting out of that Depression was of course the deplorable one of getting into a war, where people had a common worry that was much greater than the worry about your job and that sort of thing. I guess lots of people did not make it into the kind of activity they wanted to be in, in those days. Lots of people are not making it now. I’m not sure that there is such a thing as a “normal” economic equilibrium in professional jobs.
How was hirimg and firing done at Harvard? I don’t know if you were actively searching for people during those early years.
You mean on the faculty?
Well, you know about the ad hoc committee system for tenure. This was the Conant doctrine. He introduced the rule that after X years, normally five, a non—tenured appointee either got a tenured appointment or was through at Harvard, and the initial recommendation for this was made by the department in which he served; but, then this recommendation weit to the president, and the president would appoint and consult an ad hoc committee if a tenured appointment were recommended. He’d assemble these people from all over,and ask for their judent as to whether this fellow was the best man available or not and so on —— a great deal of scrutiny was going on. And if there was no tenured job to appoint someone to, then all this trouble would be saved. That would be the report. His time was up and there was no job, so he was through. The hiring of them in the first place is, I think, in general, done by a committee of the members of the department in the field of the person who is being considered. They look him over and read his papers and hear him talk, and see some other people too, and then make up their minds. They do not, or they did not until governmental procedures forced it anyway, advertise jobs that became open. I guess that the government is doing all it can to put us on the German system, where you announce that there’s a professorship vacant, and invite 700 people to write in and apply.
You would write around to the people that you knew and tell them that you might have something open?
Yes. Or sometimes, even, therëd be someone that you wished you had, that you could begin with him, and not worry about all the others.
Right. No other so—called physical organic chemists (I keep coming back to those words) were hired, until Frank Westheimer came from Chicago? Or were there others in the meantime?
Well, certainly no others on the professorial level. I can’t think how many instructors and assistant professors may have passed throagh that were basically physically organic in slant. Paul Dowd, I guess he was after Frank Westheimer came, though. That’s certainly a correct statement. Westheimer was The only other physically inclined organic chemist on the staff.
Were your children at all influenced by your career as a scientist or as a faculty member?
The last paper that I want to talk to you about this time around is the paper with Knox, which was the first of the bridgehead papers,  Tarbell thought that it was the most original of the papers up to that time. Would you care to say anything about it?
Haven’t done my homework.
What led you into it?
No, I haven’t reviewed that for so long, I wouldn’t want to speculate.
That was the one where you made the bridgehead amine and coverted it into the halide and then demonstrated that the halide was totally unreactive. Then in that particular paper, you discussed various possibilities for its being unreactive, one being that it couldn’t form a planar carboniuin ion, and another that it couldn’t be attacked from the backside.
Well, the thinking in that had been around for quite a while. The important thing about that work was making the compoithd and doing the test. We had explained things by mechanisms involving backside approach and involving ionization before. -This was a good case where neither one could occur. But I must say that such is my respect for the versatility of nature that I did not take it for granted that this would be all that unreactive, until we did it.
Then a short time either before or after, you picked up one of ICohler’s graduate students; a fellow by the name of Forrest Woods.
The only time I picked up any Kohler graduate students was in l937-38 when ICohler died.
That was the time, and for some reason I picked up that paper. That was the one where you finished off one of Kohlerts problems, which had to do with reactions of àcyclohexenone and then you made the bicyclo-diketone, that wouldn’ t enolize from the bridgehead.. 
Oh yes. -
I wondered if that was just an afterthought? You were so close. You had the starting material.
Sounds reasonable. I don’t remember.
You don’t remember the origin of that. -
Well, two last items. About a year ago, I had a conversation with Phil Skell, in which he said that physical organic chemistry is essentially dead, and the only people who practice it are the people who are putting more digits on already known numbers or re-doing old experiments. -
Well, that’s the sort of conclusion that you come to, if you insist on isolating physical organic chemistry as a discipline all by itself, because then you look around who are the best examples of physical organic chemists? You find that the best examples are the guys that don’t do anything else but put these numbers on.
So that, in fact, one can till examine the theory (the mechanisms) of organic chemistry and still find untouched ground. What do you see as the future of this kind of chemistry?
I don’t know anything about the future of chemistry as a whole. It seems to me that it’s in a very peculiar position. The greatest beneficiaries of chemical research, the industries, have sort of gone back on innovation, and without innovation, where would any of them have been in the first place? And yet they’re not doing long range innovative research, Where this will leave us in another half generation, with respect to a backlog of science to go on and people to do it, I don’t know. So I think this question, “What’s the future of X Y Z kind of chemistry?” is still more difficult to answer, and not the main point. The future of chemistry is that people will go into those things that turn out to be hot, One way, in the past, that has caused things to turn out to be hot was by having a good drive of research support behind them until they found out something that excited people, or made something new that was needed, or greatly widened the horizons or something, but that’s looking like an awfully slow process at the present time, The slowdown is, partly, because of the lack, or lobs, of faith, by the people who would be expected to do the supporting and the carrying out of the new research. I don’t know, —— If there should be a great discovery of an important photochemical energy reservoir, which would revolutionize a lot of our energy problems, you wouldn’t have to w6rry about physical organic research for a while. It would be “in.” But if none of this happens, that or any other kind of research is going to be struggling.
I think that’s a comment worth noting. For my own benefit, can you suggest people that I might talk to who might remember the period that we’ve just covered, the period up to about l9LO? We haven’t really gone beyond that very much.
Well, there’s Cheves Walling, of course.
Yes, I’ve already written to him.
Frank Mayo, and you’re in touch with Stan Tarbell. How about Jack Leffler? Ted Lewis? Jack Roberts? I can’t think of any others at the moment.
Weve talked about a variety of schools where physical organic. chemistry was starting, and it occurred to me once, that there might have been some kind of a plot that was taking place. Was it coincidental that it was beginning at Harvard and California and Chicago, or was there some kind of conspiracy between all these places? I take it it was rather coincidental?
Well, I would be very surprised if any place ever sat down and said: “Now, let’s start physical organic chemistry.”
In “P.D. and the Bartlett Group at Harvard, l931-l974,” This is elsewhere referred to as the Red Book.
Known as Harry
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 54, 3853 (1932)
 J. Am. Chem Soc., 2881 (1932)
 J. Am Chem Soc, 55, Li992 (1933)
 J. Am Chem Soc, 56, 967 (l931)
J. Am. Chem, Soc. 56, 2683 (1934)
Saul Winstein (l9l2—l969 UCLA, BA. 19314, MA. l93 Cal Tech Ph.D. 1938. John D. Roberts (b. 1918); UCLA, BA. 19141, Ph.D l94a.
 Review of “Theoretische Grundlagen der organischen Chemie”, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 57, 1386 (1935)
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 60, 2278 (1938)
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 58 466 (1936)
J. Am Chem Soc., 59, 407 (1937)
 J. Am. Chem, Soc., 59 820 (1937); 60, 1585 (1938)
J. Am. Chem, Soc., 61 3l84 (1939)
J. Am. Chem Soc. 62, 2933 (l940)