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To University of California, Berkeley to Study Physical Chemistry

GOFMAN: So, I went down and talked to Professor Steiner, [whom] I had worked [for] in a job at Oberlin for three [years]. He said, "There is only one place in the world for the kind of chemistry you'd like to study (physical chemistry), and that's Berkeley. There is no other place."

It turned out, just in a quirk, that in the two years before, Oberlin had sent two [graduating] men in a row to Berkeley for chemistry. The college had never sent any before, and none before them had ever applied [for admittance]. Both of them [were] doing well at Berkeley. He [said,] "Maybe with that record you [can] get a teaching assistantship[5] there." I applied, and I did get a teaching assistantship.

By August 1940, I came [to Berkeley] to be a graduate student in Chemistry. Norman Hoerr had assured me, "I don't care what anyone tells you, if you want to come back [to] Med School after you finish Chemistry, I'll guarantee that you'll be coming back here to Western Reserve." What I had was essentially a leave of absence based on this one man's assurance that I [could] get back in. The dean was not too sympathetic, as I said.

I came out to Berkeley. The dean of the College of Chemistry at Berkeley at that time was Gilbert Newton Lewis, one of the all-time greats in chemistry. [There were] many, many famous things that he did. In fact, he was the father of chemical thermodynamics.[6] The book that he wrote with Merle Randall, [commonly] called "Lewis and Randall," was the bible of thermodynamics worldwide for several decades. Kenneth Pittzer, who later went to head Physics at AEC[7] revised the book.

At any rate, I introduced myself to Mabel Kittredge, who was the secretary with the department, and she said, "You can get to see the dean." She gave me an appointment and I went in to see Gilbert Newton Lewis. [He said,] "Some of the graduate students should take a course or two but they don't bother much with courses; get your research started within the next few weeks."

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