30 years ago in Chemistry in Britain

30 years ago in Chemistry in Britain

When we were both about 11 or 12 years old, Lloyd Alexander Jeffress (later professor of psychology at the University of Texas) invited me to his home ’to see some chemical experiments’. The one experiment that I remember very vividly was mixing potassium chlorate with sugar and adding a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid. The reaction went off with reasonable vigour, producing steam and forming carbon. I was very impressed at that age with the fact that chemical species would change from one thing to another . an elderly friend of my father who worked as a laboratory stockroom keeper in the North Pacific Dental College in Portland, provided me with chemicals. He gave me respect for potassium cyanide and helped in providing the means of killing and mounting insects. Even at the age of 11, I was impressed by the fact that the potassium cyanide would dissolve when treated with sulfuric acid. ...I retained my interest in chemistry in a course in high school and in my own investigations in an old laboratory, part of a smelter, in Oswego, where I found a variety of acids and other materials that provided interesting experiments. 

Extract from an interview with Linus Pauling. Chemistry in Britain, February 1978 

Flashback Editor: It is interesting to note how many chemists, including Pauling, were inspired to study chemistry as a result of conducting chemical experiments at home, either using chemistry sets or chemicals obtained from drug stores (see  Chemistry World, December 2007, p42).