I recently spent some time listening to an acquaintance talk about his days as a student at MIT and as a grad student at Harvard in the early 1950’s.  He had Geoff Wilkinson for inorganic chemistry at MIT as an undergrad and later did his PhD with Wilkinson at Harvard.  Curiously, Wilkinson did radiochemistry in the Manhattan Project prior to joining academia. His radiochemistry experience compelled him to work fast and in test tubes, according to my friend.

My friend’s lab mate in Wilkinson’s group was Al Cotton. They started grad school together ca 1952 or so. This was shortly after the sandwich structure of ferrocene was proposed by Wilkinson’s fellow Harvard prof R. B. Woodward. Woodwards basis for this structure was on symmetry and a single IR stretch absorption. Spectroscopically, the original sigma bonding model didn’t fit the data.  Just prior to this, Wilkinson had begun work on a variety of organometallic Cp compounds. As the story goes, when Woodward expressed interest in making more Cp compounds, Wilkinson went to his office and “had words” with Woodward. Afterwards, Woodward moved on to other things.

My friend laughingly recalls the time he was chewed out by his P-Chem prof, the great George Kistiakowski and earlier, by Arthur Cope at MIT. He recalls being summoned to Cope’s office. Cope was wearing pink slacks which contrasted with his red hair. He was displeased about the impertinent back channel invitation my friend pitched to Linus Pauling to speak to the chemistry club. (I haven’t verified the color of Cope’s hair)

My friend recalls having E. J. Corey as a lab assistant while in an undergraduate lab at MIT. He joked that he saw Corey once at the beginning of the term and once at the end. My PhD advisor, Al Meyers, did his post doc with Corey some years later. Small world.