“a rather rigorous salt free diet,” 1962


Just for the record, the actual work I’m doing right now is about the tremendous changes the 1960s brought to Rice (and also about the surprisingly sharp limits of those changes). This means that I’m looking more carefully at the collections that shed light on this, of which there are many. A while ago I was going through some boxes that held material about the 1962 Semi-centennial celebration, including President Pitzer’s inauguration, and up turned this little gem:


Griffith Evans was a member of Rice’s first faculty and stayed until 1934 when he was lured away to chair the Math Department at Berkeley.

Two things: First, I hadn’t thought about it until recently but of course Evans knew Ken Pitzer at Berkeley and seems in fact to have been quite friendly with him. Second, the estimable Mrs. Evans was Isabel Mary Johns, daughter of an old Texas family and a descendant of San Houston, who graduated from Rice in 1917 and immediately married her teacher. Third, I’m fairly certain he didn’t make the trip after all but I’m in my office at home right now and don’t have any way to check on that.

I also, oddly enough, happen to have a photograph of Evans taken at almost the precise time this letter was written. I found it maybe a year ago in Julian Huxley’s papers. Huxley is in the middle, Evans at left and I have no idea who the guy on the right is–the picture is only labeled “Berkeley, 1962”:

Evans and Huxley Berkeley 1962



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9 Responses to “a rather rigorous salt free diet,” 1962

  1. almadenmike says:

    Looking over the UC-Berkeley math faculty appointed in 1963 or earlier, Robert Lawson Vought looks like he might be the man on the right: https://math.berkeley.edu/people/faculty/robert-lawson-vaught

  2. Finally, you are posting about some of my time at Rice. I remember getting my parking sticker for the “Semicentennial Year” in 1962 and for a few minutes wondering if I had really been a student that long. I don’t recall participating in any of the celebration because I was frantically trying to finish my PhD thesis so I could got to work — our three kids were reaching school age. I had finished all the calculations but was suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. I had submitted one paper for publication covering a small part of the work — Zev Salsburg insisted on listing me as principal author — and it was accepted for publication in the Journal of Chemical Physics.

    I vividly remember Kenneth Pitzer’s first visit to Rice as a candidate for our new President, sometime in 1961 as I recall. The Chemistry department was in quite a tizzy getting ready for his visit (I think he was to be on campus for a few weeks). Zev was on sabbatical, although he was cycling back to Houston fairly frequently for the first part of his year until he went to Holland for a few months. Since he did no experimental work, he set up the room that would normally have been laboratory space as an office for his graduate students, equipped with a drafting table and drawing equipment, calculators, desks, etc. — and most importantly, an air conditioner. He told us that others were welcome to use any of the equipment but only in the room. I was writing code for the R1 to run a series of Monte Carlo calculations, working many hours a day. The best way I had for coding was to write out the code in pencil as assembly language, then translate it into octal (we did not have an assembler working at that time) and punch the octal code on a flexowriter. This involved a good bit of writing and erasing.

    I came in one morning and discovered that our pencil sharpener was missing. I asked the other two students (who weren’t using the pencil sharpener) where it was, and they said Dr. Richard Turner, the Department Chair, sent his secretary down to borrow it to put in a temporary office for Ken Pitzer. I stormed down to the Department office, feeling badly mistreated because no one even asked us if they could borrow it. The secretary (Beth Howell, if my memory is correct) patiently explained that I could come there and use the one in her office whenever I needed it. So gathered up all my supply of pencils and went back to sharpen all of them. As I stood there sharpening pencils, I got more and more angry, and the secretary said there was nothing she could do about it and I would just have to discuss it with Dr. Turner. Upon finding out that he was working in his lab, I charged in and demanded to know when I would get my pencil sharpener back — stating that it was a big inconvenience to work without it (probably not that calmly). He reached in a drawer, pulled out a screwdriver, handed it to me, and said, “If you need a pencil sharpener so damn bad, take mine from my office!” So I did. When I returned the screwdriver I told him I would bring his sharpener back when I got mine back.

    Zev returned for a few days several weeks later. When I told him about taking Turner’s pencil sharpener, he said (after turning pale), “You did WHAT?” I told him I was just handling the office equipment the way he had instructed us to. He didn’t tell us to make an exception for the Department Chair. I never knew how Zev soothed over this episode, but there never were any repercussions that I am aware of. I couldn’t resist putting the following cryptic sentence in the Acknowledgements section of my Thesis:

    I also appreciate the generosity of Dr. Richard B. Turner in the loan of an important piece of apparatus at a critical period in this research.

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