time Linus was in high school, he had become devoted to learning.
But he dropped out of high school at age 16, because he had
taken all the science they offered. He felt that he could learn
everything else on his own by reading. He did not need a teacher
to tell him what he could read. His mother let him drop out,
but insisted that he stay home and help support the family.
He did such jobs as delivering milk, running film projectors,
and working in a shipyard. He got a good job as an apprentice
machinist, but he knew he must go to college. Linus commented
in later years that his mother did not seem to understand his
interest in science and research. Similar comments have been
echoed by many scientists about their parents and old school
went to his local college, Oregon State Agricultural
College (now Oregon State University), where he majored in
chemical engineering. He supported himself by working at all
sorts of jobs. He chopped wood, butchered cattle, and mopped
floors for a quarter an hour. He even provided much of his family's financial support in addition to completely
supporting himself. The college courses were not very challenging
for Linus. He took the most difficult courses they had and still
found time to join a fraternity, to participate in varsity track,
and to work 25 hours a week. In his third year of college, he
temporarily stopped classes in order to work full time.
summer, Linus worked as a paving inspector, checking the blacktop
as it was laid and later analyzing it in the lab. This work
stimulated his interest in chemistry and yielded $125 per month.
He sent this money to his mother to place in the bank for him
to use to return to school for the Fall term . However, when it came
time to go back to school, Linus discovered that his mother
had become ill with pernicious anemia and had spent all the
money. But, he was such a good student that the college gave
him a job helping to teach. At age 18, he was teaching the
class that he had taken the year before.
the fall of his senior year, Linus met the girl of his dreams.
She was a home economics major taking the chemistry class he
was teaching. He met her by calling out the simplest name on
the class roster: "Miss Miller, will you please tell us
what you know about ammonium hydroxide?". Miss Miller,
it turned out, knew quite a bit about ammonium hydroxide, and
it did not take long for her to know about Linus. In a few months,
they became engaged.