friends said that he had a good sense of humor. When he was grown
up and famous, he liked to trick newspaper reporters and pull jokes
on them. He also had the reputation of being a "Boy Scout",
and "never breaking any rules, even when there was no one around
to watch him", as one friend put it.
Jim was a Jr., as his father had the same name.
Jim's father was a well-known civil servant in the British civil
Apparently, no one in his family had any interest or involvement
So how did Jim get interested in science? We think it was because
Jim grew up in the country and lived close to animals
and plants. He went to a rural school, where he turned out to
be the best student. He won a scholarship to the University College
of London. He quickly developed an interest in chemistry, and
he and one of his classmate friends, Hugh Davson, spent many hours
debating how membranes might be built.
Years later, they developed a theory that dominated scientific
thought for several decades, and parts of that theory are still
After he obtained his first doctoral degree, he
took a job at Princeton University
in New Jersey during the Great Depression. At Princeton, Jim
became a Socialist and, when he
wasn't in the laboratory, he was on the street corners preaching
the need to make the U.S. a Socialist state. He was attracted
to Communism, but eventually became disillusioned with it and
became more conservative. About this time, Jim married Mary Guy,
a poet, who later became an anthropologist. They were life-long
friends and enjoyed sharing their interests in science.
1935, Jim and his family returned to England to work
at Cambridge University. There he renewed his friendship with Hugh Davson.
When World War II started, Jim conducted experiments on practical
things like wound healing. During this time he also developed an antidote to the poison,
Lewisite. This discovery resulted from working with compounds that could not cross
membranes and thus stay in the blood to combat the circulating
In later years, Jim also worked in Buffalo at
the State University of New York. From 1970 on, he became closely involved in NASA research. He
studied the possibility of life on other planets and several
projects related to environmental health issues, such as waste-water
treatment, overgrowth of plant life in lakes and ponds, pollution
effects of urban water runoff, and effects of pollution on life
in the sea.