Postdoctoral Education, 1935-1937
Professor Michael Polanyi had
come to Great Britain because, like
so many others at the time, he was fleeing from Hitler in the early
also Hans Krebs' story). Polanyi
took an interdisciplinary approach to science, as his mind (very much like
Melvin’s mind) was always curious about how all things worked.
The first experiment that Melvin
participated in was an investigation of the platinum-hydrogen bond,
which, as it turned out, was not a simple reaction at all.
While they were working on this problem,
Polanyi pointed out to Melvin that many biological reactions were
completed using a porphyrin molecule, including a related compound,
chlorophyll (the chemical that traps light energy in plants and makes
[The plot thickens]. This meant that Melvin would have to
find some porphyrin molecules that could be used to study hydrogen
activation much in the same way as their experiments with platinum.
Finally Professor Polanyi found out that an organic chemist in
London discovered how to create a synthetic porphyrin that was much more
stable than biological porphyrins. So Melvin was sent to London to find
out how to make and purify this exciting compound.
The work on this experiment continued on even after Melvin became
an instructor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1937.
Melvin became engaged to Genevieve Jemtegaard and in October of 1942, he asked his best friend Glenn Seaborg (who later discovered plutonium) to be their Best Man at the wedding. While in London, Melvin didn’t just work, he found time to socialize and enjoy life. While Professor Lewis worked one-on-one with Melvin, he and his wife also entertained the new staff members in their home, quite frequently. Also, the Lewis’ and the Calvin’s participated in the drama section of the faculty club, where faculty and/or their wives would perform as actors in various plays. Melvin and his wife thoroughly enjoyed these activities.