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Chapter 1:

Home Influences


When I was fourteen I knew I wanted to become a chemist. I had just read a German translation of “The Romance of Chemistry” by William Foster and I was fascinated. I also was an enthusiastic reader of Paul de Kruif’s books, when they became available. I made this career choice even though my school was not too conducive to such a career. My school, a “Humanistisches Gymnasium” (orientation to the classics), stressed Latin and Greek, much more so than science (only two years of physics, simple biology and no chemistry). We did have a non-credit chemistry course which I took with enthusiasm even though I specially had to go back to school in the afternoon to do so. Our regular schooling was from 8:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon and only non-credit courses and classes in religion were after 1:00. We did have good math courses which I enjoyed as long as they did not require more than the concept of two dimensions. I have no imagination in space and math in three dimensions was beyond me. Our two-year physics course was extremely incomplete. The teacher spent one and a half years on optics giving electricity, magnetism, statics and dynamics short shrift. When I was sixteen, Hitler came to power and the course in Biology was subverted to teach the superiority of the “Aryan Race.” As a Jew I was not allowed to attend. So any education in genetics and reproductive biology passed me by. This chapter of the book would not be complete without mentioning the scientific professionals, with whom my family socialized. There were numerous physicians and scientists. When I was sixteen, my aunt dated Professor Willstaetter, whose major contribution was in the field of plant pigments and particularly the chemistry and biochemistry of chlorophyll for which he received Richard Willstaetter the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Upon hearing Source: from my aunt about my interest in chemistry he invited my mother and myself to his house. Even today I remember my visit to this famous and impressive scientist. He


Richard Willstaetter Source: 5

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