Linus Pauling

Think in Ink

New Scientist named Linus Pauling is one of our 20 greatest scientists. I recognize him as one of my most influential teachers via a mutual acquaintance, and his concepts influenced my writing, designing, and my art. 

I had a well-equipped electronics lab in the chemistry department at Georgia Tech, where I designed various specialized devices for measuring and controlling experiments. I remember working on a challenging electronic circuit problem, sketching, erasing what didn't work, and repeatedly trying to get the schematic right.


My boss and mentor, Bill Eberhardt, noticed my frustration. First, he removed the pencil from my hand and deftly eliminated the eraser with his pen knife. Then, he suggested, "Maybe this will help, " handing the eraser-less pencil back to me. "It's even better if you use a pen."

This modification may seem trivial. I thought so, too, until I noticed a profound difference in my work as I continued writing and designing in ink over the next few days. I later graduated to a Precise rolling ball pen which I continue to use. That plus a sketch pad became my constant companions.

A couple of decades later, I decided to see if Professor Eberhardt was still with us. His wife answered the phone and immediately assured me that Bill's favorite activity was a special hour in the afternoon reserved for talking with students and colleagues. We made a telephone appointment for later that day. 

As I waited, several misgivings arose. Would he even remember me? What if this turned out to be embarrassing instead of pleasant? But those are ego questions having to do with my feelings. The solution wa simple: I could be a "generic" student, thanking him for all of us.

He remembered me, the contraptions I designed allowing chemists to explore new regions, the special purpose analog computer that controlled experiments, and more. We talked excitedly for almost an hour. Then I took the pen from my pocket and asked, "Remember this?"

He paused and said, "It was Linus, my major professor, who cut the eraser off my pencil. Now Linus and I are passing this on for you to share...

"Think in Ink."

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