Original Repository: Oregon State University. Library. Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Oregon State University Library.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Research Support as Topic
The Search for the Molecular Helix
June 1, 1937
I am glad to have your advice regarding the revision of our application for grants in support of work in organic and structural
chemistry and in biology. Professor Morgan will write to you regarding biology; I understand that he proposes to apply for
$10,000 a year for a five-year period, and also to suggest the possibility of obtaining support for Dr. Haagen-Smit's
researches after this year. I have begun the preparation of a more detailed and considered description of the chemistry project.
Would it be satisfactory to you if the revised application were submitted in July (after Dr. Millikan's return), or should
its preparation be made less leisurely? In the meantime I would hope to benefit by your advice on several points, one of which
is the following.
As the result of your kindness in calling him to our attention, we shall have Dr. Carl Niemann as one of our enlarged staff
in organic chemistry. As you know, Dr. Todd of the Lister Institute is also being considered; the chance that he could be
brought here, however, is small. I have been looking for other organic chemists who might be suited to our needs, and have
felt that both R.R. Williams and Roger J. Williams might well be worthy of serious consideration. It had seemed improbable
that R.R. Williams would leave his present position with the Bell Laboratories. However, during a recent visit to Corvallis
I learned from Roger Williams about plans which he and his brother are making which throw new light on the situation.
Roger Williams is in line to be made the head of the chemistry department at Oregon State in a year or two. With a few exceptions,
the quality of the staff is poor, and the financial and political situation is such as to make the prospect of improving the
department small. He feels that his acceptance of this appointment would lead to an uninspiring and uninteresting life of
routine administration, but that on the other hand his situation in the college would be unsatisfactory if he were not to
accept it. He would prefer to carry on research more intensively Than he has been able to in the past, rather than less intensively.
R. R. Williams also would like the opportunity to devote himself wholeheartedly to research such as that which he has carried
out on vitamin B1, and he would be willing (according to Roger) to resign his $20,000 job and accept a research position at
a salary of about $5,000. Roger has in mind a proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation that a new institution for biochemical
research be founded, perhaps in the Northwest, where Roger and R. R. could carry on their work.
I doubt whether your Foundation would be inclined to favor this proposal, involving the permanent endowment of a new institution.
It is possible, however, that our own plans for developing organic chemistry at the California Institute could be carried
out with R. R. Williams, Roger Williams, and Niemann as the new professors. I have a high opinion of Roger Williams, based
on his significant research contributions despite a heavy teaching load, his authorship of two good textbooks, and his pleasant
and retiring personality (which has prevented him from being aggressive in research), and I feel sure that he would fit in
well here. I have met R. R. Williams only once; I would rate him on the basis of his vitamin B1 research as an able organic
chemist and on the basis of his position in the Bell Laboratories as a man who does his work effectively. The problems in
which the two men are interested, vitamins and growth hormones, are important ones, in which great developments may occur
soon, and they fit in well with Went and Koepfli's work on plant growth hormones already under way here. I am accordingly
inclined to think that Roger Williams and R. R. Williams may have the qualities that we want, and that they might be brought
into our plan. Would you give us the benefit of the information you have regarding them, and especially of your own opinion
regarding the men themselves and the part that they would play in our project?
If those men were to come here, working on vitamin and hormone researches, our organic work would lie in the following fields:
1. Vitamin B1 and similar substances: R. R. Williams and assistants; also Dr. E. R. Buchman, formerly assistant to Williams,
who will begin work her June 9, 1937, with a Ph. D. assistant (Dr. Richardson of Johns Hopkins), on the synthesis of substances
closely similar to B1, hoping to find some with B1 activity. Dr, Buchman receives no salary, having a private income; his
assistant's salary is paid by the Research Corporation.
2. Pantothenic acid and other water-soluble growth substances: Roger J. Williams and assistants (see attached sheets).
3. The relation between structure and activity in the heteroauxins and other plant growth hormones: Dr. J. B. Koepfli, in
collaboration with Professor F. W. Went and Dr. Haagen-Smit of the Division of Biology.
4. The isolation, structure investigation, and synthesis of the bean-test hormone: Dr. James English, Jr., Lalor Fellow,
in collaboration with Professor Went.
5. The structure of proteins and carbohydrates: Professor Carl Niemann and assistants, with the aid, I hope, of the group
working in structural chemistry.
6. Researches in general organic chemistry, especially of the olefines: Professor H. J. Lucas and students.
7. Applications of the work in molecular structure to organic chemistry.
The first four of these fields are very closely related. I feel that this concentration of effort may be an advantage. Niemann
and Lucas keep the specialization from being complete. What is your opinion of this plan?
I am enclosing a copy of a description of Roger Williams' general program which he sent to me, at my suggestion, after
my talk with him in Corvallis. I made no intimation to him, of course, of the idea of including him in our project.
With best regards and sincere thanks for your kind advice, I am