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Going to an American Chemical Society meeting and getting a new job

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Jobs after graduation and working for Louis P Hammett
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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When I graduated from Columbia University in 1949 with a chemistry degree, it was impossible to find a job. It was a real recession. And... although I eventually got a job as a lab technician, because I was a chemist, you know, in, in a private company that did consulting work, you know, for, for companies. I temporarily had a job which took advantage of my knowledge of typing and I became a sales correspondent at La Salle University which is really a mail order school, you know, for... you take courses in shorthand and so, and as a result I could take free courses in stenotype and shorthand, and so I decided, with that background, I might someday be, you know, use that and become a secretary. I was... you know, Billy Rose was a very famous promoter but he’d, he’d gotten there because he knew shorthand and typing. He was a champion typist. I think he could type 200 words a minute or something. So, you know, typing was, oh, like, 150, but he could take steno at some incredible speed. So, when I eventually got this job after working as a sales correspondent. Just a few blocks away I, I somehow got a job as a lab technician at a place called Evans Research and Development, and while I was working for this company which had various consulting assignments, for example, they had a client that was looking for synthetic sources of agar gels which had to be imported from India and they were worried about, you know, supplies, and their, their client produced something called Fast Teeth, I think. You know, people... it was somehow connected with false teeth, or whatever it is. And, and they also tested out hair shampoos. You could get a free shampoo if you wanted. Half your head would be with one shampoo and the other half with another shampoo. So, one day I was working in the lab and somebody comes over and says to me, 'We want you to help us out. Somebody was supposed to, to meet with this client and take notes. We want you to come in and take notes'. So, they didn’t know at the time that I could, I could type and everything like that, you know, so I, I went to this meeting and I took notes of this meeting, and I typed them up, and they were stunned. They thought, you know, they... thought I, you know, I could do that much better than I could do lab work. So, they asked me if I wanted to stay on as a technical reporter, but just about the same time that I had gotten tired of working there, my cousin, my... I think, Sydney was a, a first cousin. His name was Sydney Bernhart who lived in Brooklyn but he was getting his PhD with Louis P Hammett, for organic chemistry. Sydney was a brilliant guy, very unusual fellow. He was a diabetic and always had health problems for most of his life but had, was well on his way to his PhD, and heard that I was looking for a job, and so he got in touch with me and said, there’s an opening here to be a lab assistant for Louis Hammett, and if you, if you have the aptitude and are interested you can get your doctorate here, you know. So, having already gotten my degree at Columbia I knew the place, but I didn’t know anything about Hammett other than the fact that physical chemistry was something that scared the hell out of me, and I had taken physical chemistry from another professor whose name, for the moment - Alfred - he was a well known physical chemist as well. But I didn’t know how famous Louis Hammett was at the time I went to work for him. Later on the irony of it is that he went on to become, not only a winner of the National Medal of Science, but he was a member of the Weinberg Committee that did the, the Weinberg Report on Science Information in Government, okay, which I mentioned just the other day when I was down in Oak Ridge, telling these people that Al Weinberg, coincidentally, brought together all these people that I had known on that committee, Josh Lederberg, and so forth. So, anyhow, I, I went to work for Hammett and... with the idea that I would eventually get my doctorate but while I was working in the lab... my job was, that was how I got exposed to working with ion exchange resins which were produced by Rohm and Haas. How things come around. I’m now a very good friend of the erstwhile President of Rohm and Haas, John Haas at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He lives right near me. He’s a wonderful man. But... I would have to run his experiments on... and have to create these various esters. The whole idea was to measure the differences and the rate at which you could separate these esters on the ion exchange resins. So, in the course of the work, though, there were times when I had to use picrate and they’re very explosive, and I had set off one or two explosions in the lab, and finally, as I’ve often pointed out, Louis P Hammett, very diplomatically, called me in, in the office one day and said, you know, I think it might be a good idea if you thought about modifying your career aspirations.

Eugene Garfield (1925-2017) was an American scientist and publisher. In 1960 Garfield set up the Institute for Scientific Information which produced, among many other things, the Science Citation Index and fulfilled his dream of a multidisciplinary citation index. The impact of this is incalculable: without Garfield’s pioneering work, the field of scientometrics would have a very different landscape, and the study of scholarly communication would be considerably poorer.

Listeners: Henry Small

Henry Small is currently serving part-time as a research scientist at Thomson Reuters. He was formerly the director of research services and chief scientist. He received a joint PhD in chemistry and the history of science from the University of Wisconsin. He began his career as a historian of science at the American Institute of Physics' Center for History and Philosophy of Physics where he served as interim director until joining ISI (now Thomson Reuters) in 1972. He has published over 100 papers and book chapters on topics in citation analysis and the mapping of science. Dr Small is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services, and past president of the International Society for Scientometrics and Infometrics. His current research interests include the use of co-citation contexts to understand the nature of inter-disciplinary versus intra-disciplinary science as revealed by science mapping.

Duration: 6 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009