June 26, 1936
To the Executive Council
California Institute of Technology
Attention: Mr. E. C. Barrett, Secretary
Mr. Barrett informs me that during my absence in Seattle it was voted by the Executive Council to recommend to the Board of Trustees that I be made Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Director of the Gates and Crellin Laboratories of Chemistry. I am very appreciative - and indeed quite touched - by this expression of confidence on the part of the members of the Executive Council. Nevertheless, both from the point of view of my own work and from that of the welfare of the Institute, I do not think that it would be wisest for us to accept.
From my own point of view, there are two considerations which I should like to mention. In the first place, I already have a very considerable administrative task as Dean of the Graduate School. I should be glad to continue this work as Dean for a number of years, but I find it more and more time consuming as the graduate school grows and as I try to do my duty by it somewhat better. In the second place, I have always been a member both of the Chemistry and Physics Divisions, and as my own scientific thinking has developed I have found myself more interested in rather abstract problems in physics and astrophysics than in the more concrete problems of chemistry. I should hence be loth [sic] to have to take still more time away from my work in relativity and in statistical mechanics.
From the point of view of the Institute, there are two analogous considerations which should be kept in mind. In the first place, it seems to me that the main administrative duties of the Chairman of the Division should have to do with the Division itself, and not be such as to divert too much
time away from his own research in chemistry. In the second place, it seems to me specially improtant [sic] to select a man who is himself primarily interested in chemistry and active in its pursuit. He should be an outstanding chemist, who is actively engaged in chemical research, who has a good knowledge of the chemical work being done in this and in other countries, and who is himself recognized as a man who is now making important contributions to chemistry.
For these reasons I do not think that it would be wise for me to accept the proposal which you have made, and wish to recommend very strongly that Professor Linus Pauling be offered the position of Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He is eminent in having the desirable qualifications for the position, which I have mentioned above, and if he accepts I feel confident that the development of chemistry at the Institute will have an assured and very successful future.
With regard to the organization of the Chemistry Division, I recommend that the plan of a Division Council as set up by the action of your body on November 2, 1935 be maintained. This council consists at present of Professors Dickinson, Lacey, Pauling and myself, and I think that this personnel might well be retained for the present. I should myself be glad to remain on this council for a year or two, and could in that way I think make more real contributions to the welfare of the Division than if I were Chairman.
I should myself do all I could to urge Professor Pauling to accept the position of Chairman, and to secure for him the active and friendly cooperation of other members of the Division.
Respectfully and sincerely yours,
R C Tolman