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By the 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 chums.

Oregon State Univerisity ImageLinus 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.

In the 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 sophomore class that he had taken the year before.

In 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.

 

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