The Garrett Hardin Society

Updated 9 June, 2003

Garrett Hardin Oral History Project

Tape 3 - The War Years and First Teaching Position

RUSSELL: How did the Second World War affect your academic career?

HARDIN: Well, I started in earnest on my Ph.D. program in 1938, so there were three years before the war started. In fact, I got my Ph.D. before the war started, in June of 1941. The war started in December of 1941. Even in June it was obvious that war was in the offing. I remember going down to register for the draft. Of course, there wasn't a chance that I would be taken. I remember that I was about the sixth to show up at the door to sign up. I looked with amusement at the sheet: up at the top of the list was a fellow in biology who signed his name first. We called him Dietrich Bodenstein; he was an emigre from Germany. He was a very humorous fellow, and I am sure he did this just for the fun of it--not to be legalistic: he signed his whole Germanic name, which took up two full lines. I think he had eight names, with Dietrich in the middle someplace. So he had signed up and I was about the sixth one down.

Of course, nothing happened. Though I remember later, when the war actually started and I saw my friends going off to war, and then I got letters from them, telling how they had passed the physical, been through boot camp, and then ended up sitting at a desk pushing a pencil--and I thought, "Of all the waste! I can push a pencil as well as they can. They shouldn't be doing that." So I went down to the draft board and tried to talk the people into finding some way to get me in. I said, "Sure, I can't pass the physical, but I can do what my friends are doing." But, of course, the whole system was inflexible; there was nothing to be done. Just one of those wastes in life--utterly silly. So I didn't try any more than that. I wasn't so gung-ho that I wanted to try real hard, but I did try.

But working on my Ph.D., if someone asked what my social life was, I would say, "It was rather simple as compared with the social life of students today." But of course, I may be completely wrong. It was rather spare, partly because of no money. I had a salary, if that's the right word for it, of $60 a month for nine months of the year. And, what with one thing or the other, I managed to make out for the remainder of the year. My mother sent me $10 a month, so that has to count as $70 a month. But I usually had something going. I was the laundry agent for the Biology Department. We had lab coats that had to be laundered. I got the agency for that, so I'd go around and pick them up and turn them over to the driver. I can't remember what I got--a nickel or dime a piece commission, or something. But all these little things helped. Altogether, I probably made about
$80 a month. Out of that I had to pay for my upkeep and the upkeep of my automobile. But then I could get eight gallons of gas for a dollar, so that wasn't so bad. And the car didn't get repaired, you might say. It just had to run.

I lived several places. Well, I lived briefly in the dormitory--didn't like that at all. But, of course, it was primarily an undergraduate dormitory, and graduate students are oddballs in dormitories. I got out as soon as I could. Most of my graduate career I lived with one close friend and, often, with several. My first roommate was Morris Pickett, a Quaker majoring in bacteriology. Now he is just about to retire from UCLA as Professor of Bacteriology. I'd known him, curiously, before I came to Stanford. My first week at Stanford I ran into him out in front of the quad, and we both looked at each other in a sort of embarrassed, blank way. We knew we should know each other. "But, where have I seen you?" each one thought. Then we realized why we were having so much trouble. It was the first time either of us had seen the other with his clothes on. We had always seen each other in the swimming pool at the University of Chicago. And hadn't particularly known each other, but.... So we met there, and introduced ourselves, and apologized for the clothes, and presently, were roommates. And then later, we formed a group of four to rent a house in town, which was called the "1770 Club," because of its address. Oh yes, before that we were roommates in a rooming house that was known as "Rigor Mortis."

RUSSELL: The food was that bad?

HARDIN: No, the food was very good. Mrs. Catron, a widow, ran it. And she was a nice person. She liked young people and the inmates were almost all medical students--hence the name. This was their one year on the Palo Alto campus, then they would go up to San Francisco, where the Stanford Med School was then. The only ones who weren't medical students were Pickett and I, and one law student. I don't know how he happened to get in there. Of course, the medical types gave him a very hard time: the conversation at dinner time was gory. The students, back from postmortems, would proceed to describe in great detail what they had done, hoping to drive him from the table. Of course the blood and guts didn't affect Pickett and me, we being biologists. But the budding lawyer had a hard time.

RUSSELL: You put him on a diet?

HARDIN: Just about. During my stay in Rigor Mortis I dried dishes an hour a night. Really hard work because there were about twenty people. "Pick" washed and I dried. And that paid for my room and board. Later, Pick and I brought two other people together, rented a house of our own, called the "1770 Club," because it was 1770 Emerson Street. And that was really the nicest living, short of being married, that I know. Four compatible people had four bedrooms. We cooked our own meals--except Pick, who worked in the Corner House as a waiter. So he wasn't in on the meal thing. But the rest of us cooked our own meals, and we took turns. Let's see, what was it? Cook one week, dishwasher the next week, and lunch maker the next week. So we rotated. And we did it on a weekly basis because most of our food was leftovers. A cook wants to work with his own leftovers. The week that I cooked, we always had beans, because I love beans. When Calhoun cooked, we had potatoes; and when Hungate cooked, we had rice. We were all biologists. Calhoun later became the Head of the Fresh Water Division of the Fish and Game in California. Hungate, after several jobs, ended up in radiation biology up at Hanford, Washington. It was a most compatible bunch.

RUSSELL: Do you still keep in touch with them?

HARDIN: We had one or two reunions many years later and have kept in touch slightly--not strongly, but occasionally write to each other. But that was substantially our social life. One thing--we didn't have any money to do anything else. We couldn't do much in the way of dates, particularly considering how much money so many of the Stanford girls had. We couldn't move in those circles at all.

Graduate students and engineers were the poor folks of the campus. Oh, the wealth among undergraduates was just astonishing. Consider this girl in my lab section. Another girl gossiping to me about her--laughing about her complaint that she couldn't get along on her allowance. Her folks paid all of her bills, including all of the bills for her car, which was a new Cadillac, and gave her an allowance of $200 a month. And she just couldn't get along; she went through stockings like you never saw. Just $200 a month wasn't enough. Well, how could I date such a girl as that? But, of course, we didn't date our students anyway. That was quite rightly frowned upon. And none of my acquaintances ever violated the rule, so far as I know.

However, there was nothing that said you couldn't date someone else's student, particularly, from the year before. And that's how I happened to meet my wife. I was looking for a date at one time, and someone fixed me up with this blind date, and it turned out to be one of Calhoun's students from the year before. She was an undergraduate. She was a sophomore and I was just about through with graduate school then. She had been majoring in math, but she decided that she would major in me. So by the end of her sophomore year she was married. And that was that.

RUSSELL: Would you want to say anything about her family background?

HARDIN: She came from the San Joaquin Valley. Her father had a degree in engineering from Stanford. He had been one of the early ones, when Stanford was really young; it was just a few years after Herbert Hoover was there as a student. There was always a strong supposition that his children would go to Stanford. A very, very strong feeling that way. It's like the eastern schools in that way. His first child, Bernard Swanson, did go; got a degree in engineering and went on into the oil industry. The second child, Charles, couldn't make it. He had a great deal of trouble all through school. Looking back now, we realize what the trouble was: he was dyslexic. In those days, this wasn't realized. There was no name for it and people couldn't figure out why he couldn't hack the school work. Poor at writing, poor at reading. He finally went through Davis--didn't even try Stanford; he couldn't get in. Went to Davis, where they had a sort of two-year certification program, not a four-year thing, for people who couldn't do the four years. So he did that. As things turned out, the child with the least academic ability was the only one to become a millionaire. I doubt if he has ever read a book in his life. He reads nothing but contracts. He just makes money.

RUSSELL: What type of business does he operate?

HARDIN: He's a dirt moving contractor in the valley. Moving up and down the valley, leveling fields and so forth. He wasn't dumb; he just couldn't pass a course.

And then Jane went to Stanford. She was the third child. She did not finish; as you see, she got diverted. The last child was Catherine, who came along about ten years later--you know, the "little accident," as they say. She went through Stanford, too.

RUSSELL: So that was the Stanford connection, so to speak. Is there anything else you would like to mention about the war years? What effect it had upon your career?

HARDIN: Well, the primary effect was after I had got my Ph.D., but first of all, I got my Ph.D. in '41. Oh, incidentally, Jane accepted me along in the spring of '41. Then the question was, when were we going to get married? She decided, quite rightly, that I should finish my thesis first. Too many instances of young people getting married and just never getting a thesis finished. If you are going to write a thesis, it is better to be uncomfortable than comfortable. So, to remove temptation, her aunt took her on two trips that spring and summer. One trip, with two other nieces, was to Mexico during spring vacation. Then in the summer, Aunt Myra took Jane on a trip to Alaska, which extended far beyond what they thought it was going to because the boat they were on was mostly freight, and it would stop and pick up canned fish from the salmon canneries. But they had a great deal of trouble; they often couldn't stop; they got interfered with. Without warning, the government would give them something and say, "You have to take this," because the government was building up the supplies in Alaska in preparation for the foreseen war. This was the summer of '41. Instead of taking two weeks the trip took, I think, six weeks.
Of course, it was a great bargain from one point of view, because the boat trip cost a flat fee. So they had six weeks of meals for the price of two. But I was getting a little impatient. I wanted Jane to get home because I was finishing my thesis. I did finish it, Jane got home, and we were married in September.

Just to show that I am better at giving advice than following it.... You know, after all, one shouldn't get married until one is well established in life. I habitually point out to my students that one of the explanations for the great advance of European civilization over others is the difficulties the culture put in the way of marriage and family formation. Very commonly, a young man was not allowed to get married until he had made enough money to buy a house. And they didn't have time payments or anything like that, so he was 30 or 35 years old before he got married. For the community, this had population control as its result. (Quite different from India.)

Well, when I got married, first of all, I had no legal prospect of a job--just an oral promise. Second, I was in debt for the typing of my thesis. Third, I had to borrow $100 from the brother of one of the inhabitants of 1770 to buy a new suit to get married in. So, when I got married, my wealth was negative.

RUSSELL: You had a negative cash flow from the start.

HARDIN: Yes, but I had a promise of a job in the fall. Well, academic jobs were very hard to get then. With the war coming along, students disappearing into military training, universities were pursuing a policy of not replacing anyone who died or left. There just weren't any jobs. The only warm prospect I had was a job at the University of Nevada. I talked to Beadle about it and he said, "Well, if you don't mind staying there the rest of your life, that'll be all right," which put it in a nut shell. In other words, it was really a cul-de-sac. If I once got in a poor place like that, heavy teaching loads would make it very difficult to do research. I might never get out. Though I very much wanted to get married, I said, "No!"

So there I was with no job at all. Well, at that point, my major professor, Willis Johnson, came forward with an offer for a research assistantship for the next year. He had the funds for it, so I took that. It was just for one year, and what happened after that I didn't know, but at least it was for one year. So that was it--a promise was all that I had. On that, I got married.

In the fall I worked as a research assistant with Johnson on the problem of culturing paramecium in a completely known medium. It had always, until then, required bacteria to feed on, which means you don't know what on earth it's nutrition is. No one had ever been able to grow it on anything except live bacteria. If the bacteria weren't alive the protozoa would soon die.

Johnson, following a suggestion from van Niel, found he could maintain the protozoan culture on "pressed yeast juice, or pyj." This was obtained by pressing juice out of live yeast cells and filtering it through a filter that left all the cellular debris behind. It was a hell of a job being nursemaid to the paramecia, because you had to squeeze fresh yeast juice twice a week and transfer the cultures with the greatest sterile precautions.

The next step was to try to figure out what it was in the yeast juice that the protozoa needed. The nursemaiding went on all fall; not inspiring research, but moderately interesting. Then, in January '42--remember, Pearl Harbor came in December '41--I was approached by the director of the Carnegie Laboratory, which is on the Stanford campus. The completely independent Carnegie Institution of Washington had a plant biology laboratory on campus. They needed someone who could handle algal cultures, and wanted to know if they could interest me in doing that.

This was a real opportunity, but I soon figured out why it came my way. The director of the lab was H. A. Spoehr, a rather Germanic chemist who, like most chemists, had not too high an opinion of biologists. He would have taken on a chemist if he could have gotten one, but all the chemists were being moved into war work, mostly into the Manhattan Project, as we later learned. Unable to get a chemist, Dr. Spoehr figured he would have to reach down low in the scuppers and pull out a biologist.

Dr. Spoehr spoke to Johnson about the position, to see if it would be possible for me to be relieved of my contract, not that there was ever a piece of paper, there never was, but the understanding of it was that I would work the year. Johnson said that he could manage if I could work for another month and a half for him. So I said, "Sure, I'll do that." So for a month and a half, I worked at two jobs. Under the circumstances, it was the wise thing to do, but I never want to do it again. I'd work from 8 to 4 in Johnson's lab. Jane would come over with a bag supper, and eat with me from four to four-thirty, and then I would go over to the Carnegie lab and work until midnight and then go home.

RUSSELL: That's burning the candle at both ends!

HARDIN: Both ends, but that was the way I managed to get really a much better job. Not much more money, but a lot better job.

RUSSELL: Is it still in existence?

HARDIN: Oh, yes, it's still going, still in the same place. And, of all the people who go to Stanford, most don't even know of its existence. If they are aware of it, they are only aware of it as that building out there, and they wonder what's in it. But the Carnegie people are good ones to work for. It's a good position. I worked there from '42 to '46, culturing various algae, getting many into pure culture--many that had never been gotten into a pure culture before. Nice people; a good place.

RUSSELL: Before we really get into the Carnegie project, maybe we could go back and discuss your dissertation. At that time, I imagine it must have been your most important work.

HARDIN: Yes, and what I intended to do for my dissertation was a problem in the interaction of paramecium and didinium, which is a predatory ciliate. A didinium catching and engulfing a paramecium--that is a real sight to see under the microscope. It's one of the fiercest things you will ever see. Didinium is a little round ball, like a ping pong ball, bouncing around. It has a little snout that is invisible under ordinary light. When it contacts a paramecium, it sticks its snout in like a hypodermic needle, and in less than a minute sucks the entire paramecium up through its snout. What makes the ingestion so impressive is that the paramecium is initially larger than the didinium. In a matter of a minute or so the dininium swells up to be the size of the two animals. It's fierce! Nothing among the vertebrates can compare with didinium for sheer ferocity.

My interest lay in population problems. I wanted to see if the reality fit mathematical theories that had been worked out by an Italian named Volterra, which had previously been tested somewhat by a Russian named Gause. I wanted to check over what they had done to see if it would lead to other work. One of the problems is, when you have such a fierce predator, how do you ever keep the prey going, when they're eating them up all the time? The general conclusion was that you had to have a complex environment that had some hiding places in it, otherwise, it was a case of, literally, the didynium eating itself out of house and home. Eat up all the paramecia; the paramecia all dead; then the didynium would die--an interesting problem.

Well, that's what I wanted to do but I had trouble culturing my paramecia. I couldn't maintain them. This was incredible, since it is an easy animal to culture. My failures continued for about two years: very disconcerting. And then finally, somehow or another, I realized that something I had been dismissing as a curious abnormality was at the heart of the experience. My cultures contained another protozoan, a very small one, called oikomonas. When it was present, the paramecia could live and when it wasn't, they couldn't. Very odd. So the minute I discovered that, I started off investigating the association. I had my thesis project. It wasn't the one I started with, but a completely different one.

That was the winter of '41. Here I was in my third year and I still hadn't gotten forward on a thesis. Once I found the paramecia-oikomonas problem, the experiments suggested themselves, so my work went very fast. In roughly three months, I did all the experiments my Ph.D. thesis was based on. That still left a lot of loose ends. For one thing, there was still no explanation why my experience was different from all other reports. Whether the other people had missed seeing the oikomonas--because it would be possible not to see it if you weren't very observant--or whether I had a different strain, or God knows what. I never did work that out, but I demonstrated that, for my strains, there was no question but that some sort of a symbiosis was going on.

One other thing I found out: oikomonas was capable of flocculating bacteria. It can cause many sort of bacteria to gather together in clumps, which may have been part of the reason it was at least useful--perhaps not essential--to paramecia. It must be easier to swallow a clump than individual bacteria. There is also be the possibility this effect might have some practical value, but I didn't pursue that. (I'll come to that again when I talk more about Carnegie.) At any rate, I got a thesis out of the symbiosis. The thesis was, I think, a pretty good one, even though it has a lot of loose ends. But all theses do.

RUSSELL: Did you have to defend it?

HARDIN: Yes, but of course that's easy, because by that time you know more about it than anyone else. No, the tough doctoral exam is the prelim--that's when they test you on what they know. The thesis exam was easy. The toughest thing about my doctoral career was the two years of disappointment before I blundered onto oikomonas. Before then I wondered, where in the hell am I going next, or what am I going to do?

RUSSELL: What was Johnson's response to your plight?

HARDIN: Well, not much. It was my problem. This is in keeping with the tradition in science. There are different schools of thought, but a great many mentors of Ph.D. candidates believe that the best thing you can do is leave them alone and let them sink or swim. Because that's the challenge of science: can you do it by yourself, can you sweat your way through? The seniors don't want to run the risk of nursemaiding you through to a degree. You've got to do it yourself. I think that is right. I don't think Johnson should have done anything.

RUSSELL: How would you evaluate your results? Did you make a contribution to science?

HARDIN: Well, I would say that, so far as we know, no contribution to science, nothing significant at all. I think it a well-done piece of work. After all, that is really the most you can demand of a completed Ph.D. project, that it be of technical quality. Whether it's a real contribution to knowledge depends on all sorts of uncontrollable things. Presumably, if a person is capable of making real contributions, he'll do it. But the thesis project may not be the time. And it wasn't. If my thesis had never been done, I don't think we'd have noticed the difference in the practice of science today.

RUSSELL: Now if we could return to the Carnegie laboratory. Was there any relationship between your doctoral research and the work you were doing there?

HARDIN: Well, I think there is something interesting here, bearing as it does on some very human problems--a couple of things that I learned about human problems as a result of going to Carnegie. First of all, I went over there in spring, well, winter and spring of 1942. Already, the rationing of gasoline had taken place. Jane and I had an "A" sticker on our car, which entitled us to a minimum amount of gasoline. Though my handicap--a weak right leg--might have been used as the excuse for asking for more gas, I was not about to do so. We wanted to visit Jane's folks, who lived near Hanford, California, some two-hundred miles away. With our "A" sticker, by being very careful, once every three months we could make one trip--two-hundred miles there, two-hundred miles back. That would use up about all of our allotment.

Our making this trip was hardly a national necessity, but it was important to us. For one thing, Jane was quite young then; she was nineteen. And also, there was the matter of the government sugar allotments. Though many people complained of niggardliness of their sugar and meat allotments, the Hardins didn't have enough money to use them completely. The coupons were supposed to be non-transferrable, but we would take our extra sugar coupons down to Hanford and give them to Jane's mother. And then Mrs. Swanson, at the appropriate time of year, would make all sorts of jams and jellies for us to take to our house. A good deal for us.

I recall when I was working for Johnson, I did go to the lab in the car. Either I drove myself or Jane drove me if she wanted the car for something. But, the Carnegie lab, by road, was another two miles away round trip every day, which was pushing our gas allotment. Furthermore, as soon as I got to the lab, I discovered there were only two people at the lab who drove in cars; one was the janitor and the other was the gardener. Everyone else, from the director on down, rode a bicycle. Well, how could I dare to drive a car? I wanted to belong to the right class and so I really should ride a bicycle. The only trouble was, I couldn't ride a bike. I had tried when I was six or seven years old, and having had polio, made a few attempts, skinned my knees, and wore out the tempers of the people trying to teach me. And then I decided I couldn't ride a bike. Well, this was interesting because now I was really under the necessity of riding a bike, for, shall we say, social survival, a struggle for survival, I had to ride a bike to hold my head up. Well, I was going to ride a bike. So Jane borrowed a bike from one of her friends. We went out on one of the sort of abandoned roads of the Stanford campus one Sunday, and she taught me to ride a bike. You know, running along beside me, the usual thing you do with someone. Monday morning, I bicycled to work. From then on, I was on a bike, which is kind of an interesting thing. What does it mean when a person says he can't do something? Well, maybe he can and maybe he can't; it depends on the circumstances. If it's really necessary, it's surprising what you can do. I learned a valuable lesson.

Now the other thing I said I learned in the way of human things--human nature, and so on--was a little more complex to describe. But it put me in a position to understand, later, some of the complaints of people who belong to minority groups, who complain that they are not treated right. And you point out to them--well, you can vote, you can ride in any part of the street car you want to, you can do this, you can do that. They know this, but they say Nevertheless, "You put me down." Well, I had this experience at Carnegie. They had hired me, but without ever anything being said about it, I knew they had hired me because they couldn't get anyone better. All the chemists had gone and Dr. Spohr, the director of the lab, was a tough old Prussian sort of person--strong in his beliefs and prejudices. A good man, but hard for a young person to get along with. And he obviously wasn't very pleased with the fact that he had had to hire me. He was pleasant and so on, but I could feel an undercurrent of "Here is the second best; we're stuck with him."

After I had been there about a year the atmosphere changed. There was a strong feeling of social pressure; nothing directly, and certainly nothing from the head office out in Washington, but really, it would have been nice if we were doing something that might conceivably have some significance for the war effort. What we were doing certainly did not. We were working on the effect of cultural condition on the ratio of fat to carbohydrate synthesized by microscopic algae. The connection of that with the war effort just couldn't be made at all. And looking around, Spohr discovered in the literature that a fellow named Pratt, who was then up at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, had several years earlier discovered that chlorella, an alga, a one-cell green alga, produces some sort of a chemical that inhibits its own growth. This, by the way, is part of an old, old problem. What stops population growth in anything? And many people have looked for, and sometimes they have found, substances that are self-inhibitory and sometimes they haven't. And since chlorella have it, Spohr thought that maybe it would inhibit the growth of other things--maybe, like penicillin, it would be useful. He wanted us to do that. So, okay, we cut down the volume of other research and started working on this. My job was to handle the cultures--keep them pure and so forth.

Well, I didn't feel too enthusiastic about this, but okay. So I did it. What I thought would be really good to do would be to look into this thing I discovered--the agglutinating effect of oikomonas. But I was aware that I was so low on the totem pole, I just didn't think that I could persuade Spohr to take this seriously. Since it was something I had discovered, rather than a stranger at a distance, you see. So I never even proposed it to the group. To this day, I don't know whether it would have been good or not, because no one has ever investigated this possibility. But a priori, it would look somewhat more hopeful because of the growth characteristics. The oikomonas, being a small protozoan, grows like mad. It has a terrific multiplication rate. So you would immediately have a big culture--two or three days later, you would have an increase by many fold. Whereas chlorella, a typical plant, is very slow growing. You would have to grow a culture for a month before you had enough of it to do anything. On the a priori grounds it was a better thing to work with, but I never proposed it. And the reason I didn't was this business of feeling I was a second-class citizen, and why should I get my nose out of joint, butting against a stone wall, to mix a metaphor. But that made me understand the feeling of people in minority groups, who, yes, you treat them in a formal way, politely; they can vote; they can do this and do that; but you don't really take them seriously. And you're not going to listen to them. You see, I had that feeling from a different thing. That's the explanation of my behavior, but it is certainly no excuse. I don't think it's an excuse for the behavior of minorities either. The underdog just has to fight his way up. If people don't think you're any good, well, come back and try again, try again, try again. I didn't do it, and that was a mistake. I should say that, before I got through, Spohr did have a good opinion of me. In the four years I was there, he decided I was all right. But initially, he didn't. I was just someone he was stuck with. After working there for three years--by the way, it was a good lab; they were nice people; the conditions of work and everything was ideal--but after three years, Stanford got short-handed, having not hired anyone for years, and one term they really needed someone to teach the elementary biology, and they approached the Carnegie director and asked, could they borrow me. I had been a satisfactory teaching assistant and so on, and they thought I could do it. Could they borrow me? Spohr decided he would lend me for one quarter, which he did. In effect, what we did, as I recall, I cut my work day down to about three hours a day. There were still cultures that had to be maintained and so on. But I could cut it down to three hours a day for that one quarter, and then rev up again afterwards. So I taught at Stanford.

Well, I decided teaching was where I really belonged. I liked teaching better than research. It's just more exciting. And Jane commented that I seemed to be much happier. So I decided, "I've got to get back into teaching somehow or another."

I said earlier that nothing in my life was carefully planned. I just fall into things; never any planning. And this was certainly the case. I didn't put out tentacles to look for a teaching job. I was just waiting for one to come around. I guess. I don't know what I was doing. And, lo and behold, a job turned up. We were members of the co-op grocery store in Palo Alto, and it budded off a co-op housing group, which was looking forward to the end of the war and the end of national shortages, when we could build our own houses. We felt we could do better than real estate developers. We called our housing spin-off "Ladera," which means "little hill." We bought land near Stanford, and we were going to build houses when the war ended. Well, Ladera had troubles, but that doesn't concern us, that was after Jane and I had left.

I was one of three people in charge of getting out the monthly newsletter. The other two were Dave Bonner, who was a biochemist working with Beadle, and Wally Stegner, the novelist. And we three had to get out a newsletter, which we did every month.

RUSSELL: What was Stegner like?

HARDIN: He was a very nice person. You see, he is an outdoor person for one thing, so biologists can relate to him very easily. And I personally liked him. I always did. We worked together well. And we put out a pretty good newsletter. I remember one night working at Bonner's house. Afterwards Stegner and I had to get home. For some reason that I don't remember, Bonner said he would take me home on his motorcycle. The first time I had ever been on a motorcycle. So he took me home on the motorcycle. Gave me a thrill. You know, a cyclist always does that to a person the first time. You know, gunning the thing. My gosh, I thought I was going to fall off this thing. Got to my house, and I said, "Won't you come in and have a beer?" So he did. Well, I know one of the reasons he was coming in was because he wasn't getting along with his wife very well then. Chance entered my life once more. Sitting down, drinking beer, Bonner happened to mention that they were looking for someone in Santa Barbara, which I would never have learned if he had been on better terms with his wife. It happened that I knew one person at Santa Barbara, Fred Addicott, a botanist. So I wrote to Fred and asked him, "What about it?" And he said, "Sure, come on down." So I did. I came down and so did several other people. But anyway, I got the job. Then I went back home and informed Dr. Spohr that I wanted to be relieved because I had this chance to get a teaching job. And I told him that I thought that was really where I belonged. Fortunately, we had just ended a whole series of experiments. We were sort of at loose ends at the moment, so I wasn't interrupting anything important. So he agreed that I could leave; but he was obviously surprised. They had fired people before, but they never had anyone resign. This was a new experience. And, resigning to go to Santa Barbara, which most people still thought was Santa Barbara State. It wasn't. It was the University of California, but you couldn't tell the difference yet. Santa Barbara State was not a good institution; it really wasn't. And I was doing that, rather than staying with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Insane! He didn't say this, but I'm sure this went through his head.

Incidentally, after I got down to Santa Barbara, I was visited by someone from the Carnegie Institution's home office in Washington, who came out to find out why I had left, because this was so unusual. They understandably suspected that maybe something was wrong with the lab, and they had better get on to it before more defections occurred. They had not had anyone resign before. It was a good lab; but it was not for me. I decided it was not my kind of life. One has many reasons for changing jobs, and you don't know the comparative weight of them. But there was another thing that entered in. First of all, the chlorellin that we worked on. We put in two years of work--that was a total of six people at our lab and six people at the University of California's lab up in San Francisco. So twelve people times two years--twenty-four man-years of work--and we ended up with a product that was inhibitory of various bacteria and showed a certain amount of promise; but not too much. It was hard to produce; there wasn't much of it; and the spectrum of organisms that it affected was not too different from that affected by penicillin, which, of course, was in production in large scale by that time.

Nevertheless work continued with chlorellin. We had a contract with the Little Laboratory, C. C. Little--I think it is, back east--which is a contract engineering firm, to see about producing chlorellin in larger quantities. This work went on, by the way, for another three or four years, at the end of which, it was dropped completely. It turned out that chlorellin had a toxicity that made it unacceptable in medical practice. There were too many other good antibiotics, and so that was that. It was a washout. This does not mean that we shouldn't have done the research. That's the nature of research; you don't know if it's any good until you go all the way to the end. But still, by the end of that two-year period, it was apparent that it wasn't promising.

Then there was something else. The other major project that we were working on, trying to work out culture methods to produce algae as possible food for the world's starving people. We were the first lab to really work on this on a large scale. We learned a lot and worked out a lot of techniques for different organisms. But my heart wasn't in this business. I had been thoroughly indoctrinated as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago with W. C. Allee with the reality of the population problem. You cannot solve the population problem by increasing supplies. The only useful thing to do is decrease demand. By whatever means, persuade people to have fewer children, because no matter how much you increase supply, the growth of the population will absorb it all. So our Carnegie project seemed to me, on the most fundamental grounds, to be a flawed research project, because it could not solve the problem it set out on. The lab was committed to it, you see. And again, I didn't speak up; I didn't speak up and argue. As the youngest member of the group, I didn't speak up and say, "This is a lot of bunk; we shouldn't be doing it." I just did my job and let the project go on. But when I had this chance to get out, I got out.

RUSSELL: Isn't this misconception still held by a number of people?

HARDIN: Oh, yes, it still is. The biologist is more than any other group, aware of it. And he is often odd man out when people start talking about hunger. The rest of the people, even good scientists, often don't see what you are talking about. For them, science and technology will solve the problem. Many, many fine people still believe that.

RUSSELL: And here, you were primarily dealing with chemists.

HARDIN: Yes, and chemists are pretty much technical optimists. You know, let's invent a better way to get protein out of things and we'll solve the problem of hunger -- not looking at it from the point of view of rates of growth of population and technology. So I was odd man out. I left Carnegie for many reasons. I wanted to teach, that was for certain, and I couldn't do teaching at Carnegie. And my heart wasn't in our major research at that point, which was algae as food for human beings.

RUSSELL: How did that turn out for them?

HARDIN: Well, that washed out, too. Economically, algae as food couldn't compete with other methods. I should say that there is one aspect of this which we didn't do, which was done by a lab up in Berkeley and is still going on, where they are combining the business of growing algae with the business of purifying sewage. They use the sewage effluent as the culture medium, and then, ignoring human beings, they feed the algae to cattle. That means you don't have to worry about health issues. You feed the cattle. The cattle work as a filter, and then people eat the cattle. That approach really looks promising. I think that's the way to go. Our approach didn't look promising. The yield was just too low.

RUSSELL: Perhaps this is a good point to return to your arrival at Santa Barbara. How hard was the move on your family? If my calculations are right, you had been married for about three or four years.

HARDIN: We married in '41. It was now '46. So it was five years, almost, and we had two children by now. I arrived in Santa Barbara, to a town where housing was as tight, if not tighter, than it is now. That may be hard to believe, but it was all at a much lower level, in terms of the money needed. But the point was that there were just no houses available. That was a tough one. The University realized it was in a bind. You see, all the universities were trying to expand in the fall of '46 because men were coming back from the war. They had their G.I. Bill of Rights. They were going to school. Universities needed teachers; and if you're going to have teachers, you are going to have to have housing for the teachers.

Well, in a big city, there is enough looseness--a university may not have to worry about housing. But, in a small place like Santa Barbara, where there is no "give," what do you do? The University found out that it could get hold of what was called Hoff Heights. It was then covered with barracks that were used as part of a Marine base hospital. When the University was given an opportunity to acquire the barracks for housing, it did. But even though there was some delay there, I accepted the job in spite of the housing shortage and came down here in February of '46 because they desperately needed teachers and wanted me then, if they could have me. So I came down, leaving my family behind. Initially, I rented a room in a private house, but this was not permanent, and I was forced to move around from place to place. For a while, I lived with the Addicotts, the fellow who had gotten me here, for a month or so, but not being able to find anything else proved embarrassing. Finally, I found a place in a private home, which was awkward. The people were retired and they could use a little extra money, so they took me in. Later, I managed to get into the basement of the Lobero Hotel, which is now, I believe, used by one of the industrial concerns for its offices. I can't remember which one. But then it was a hotel, which allowed the basement to be used by the Brooks Institute for housing their budding young photographers. I don't remember now how I managed to wangle my way in there. It was an absolute barracks situation, just one bed after another, but still, more pleasant than being with those old folks.

All this time, I tried to look for a house we could rent, but there was just nothing. I particularly remember one experience. I went around to talk to the woman owner. It turned out, after a long conversation, which one has to put up with when you're looking for something, you don't count the time; you try to soften the person up by being patient. Finally, by the time I put two and two together, I realized that the condition under which we could rent her house was as follows. She had someplace else she was going to go live, with a friend nearby or something, while we rented her house. The killer was this: she was greatly concerned about the godless institution on the hill, and "Wouldn't it be wonderful if nice young people like you could have a weekly meeting in your home at which you'd talk about religious things and morals to the students?" She, the owner, would come and take part in the discussions. This was the condition under which she would rent this house to us: we were to lead an inspirational group to save the souls of university students.

Well, I spent the spring looking for a place, and finally I found one rental for the summer. One of the faculty women in P.E.--Gladys Van Fossen-- was going to be gone for the summer. She was gone for the year, but she had already rented it for the fall, winter, and spring of the next year to someone else, but we could have it for the summer. I accepted the offer.
While I was down in Santa Barbara, my wife was trying to sell the house in Menlo Park that we had just bought the month before. We had been in the house for two weeks when I took the Santa Barbara job. Jane had to sell furniture, too. We had bought the house with the furniture, although we had furniture of our own. So we had a lot of extra furniture. While Jane was busy selling furniture and the house, she occasionally managed to come down for a weekend and look with me, though to no better effect. We couldn't find anything.

Finally, let's see, how did this go, we sold the house, sold the furniture, and then Jane moved with the children back to her parents in the San Joaquin Valley to live. We had no place else to go. Jane moved there with the car and a trailer load of furniture. Then, when we got this house to rent for the summer, we left the furniture in the valley because Miss Van Fossen's house was very well furnished, of course.

Jane and the two children came in June. We looked actively for houses all summer long, but no houses. In the meantime, the University had gotten Hoff Heights, but they had to remake these barracks into apartments, and that took time. So, of course, they weren't ready for September. At the end of August my wife had to move back to the valley again, because there was no place else to go. Finally, in October, we got into Hoff. We were number two or number three to get in there.

That year--I am not through yet--we lived five places altogether. Hoff was all right in a way, but Jane is a country girl, and she didn't like this business of apartments and crowds and kids and disorder. Hoff Heights was really a hodge podge, really a cross section of the community. The University had a priority for a certain number, but other groups had priorities, too. The apartments rented for $30 to $35 a month. To put that in perspective, at this time you had to pay a minimum of $10,000 to buy a house. The cost of rentals? It is hard to say because there weren't any. But, if you did get one, it was three or four hundred dollars a month, as compared with thirty dollars per month. As you can imagine, Hoff was filled promptly.

But Jane didn't like this kind of living. Looking hard once more, Jane found a house in town we could afford. It cost $12,000, which was about what we had sold our house for in Menlo Park. In November, we moved again, and we were in our new house by Thanksgiving.

RUSSELL: Where was the first house located?

HARDIN: Well, this is on...oh, dear, how one does forget these things. What's the name of that street? Oh yes, Grand Avenue, 1910 I believe. It's just under the old Riviera campus. It was only a half mile straight up to the campus. So I would walk to campus. Occasionally, I would take the car, but that had the disadvantage that, as often as not, when I took the car up there--for some good reason, mind you--I'd forget and walk home. And then, if we were going out in the evening we had no car until I walked back up to the campus to get it. But, I must say, I do like the business of being within walking distance of one's work. It's just marvelous. And it was nice being on the Riviera. It had a nice climate. It was an old wooden house, built early in the century. When we moved in, it had no heat at all. But it heated up beautifully--passive solar heating. It had been designed right. It just shows what designing can do. It was chilly in the morning until about 8 o'clock. By 8 o'clock, the front part of the house was thoroughly warm. Unfortunately, the back side of the house was on the shady side, which was cold for a long time, and that's where our children had to stay. Unfortunately our son developed asthma--asthmatic attacks--so we had a heater put in during the first year, or maybe the second. That means that the house had existed from about 1910 until 1947 without any artificial heat. There was a small fire place, but no heating. It just shows you what you can do by building a house properly. And that was done before all the present enthusiasm over solar heating. The house was simply built right, with a big sun porch, and it got a lot of heat. You could open the porch door and the heat just poured in. Or, if it was cold at night, you would close the door to the sun porch and keep the cold out.

RUSSELL: We have just a couple more minutes left on the tape, so maybe we could end this session with a brief description of the faculty as you saw them. Here you had left a prestigious lab to teach at a university your colleagues considered inferior. What were your impressions of the faculty?

HARDIN: Well, there were certainly a lot of very inferior people on that faculty. Some of the stories would curl your hair. But, in biology we had good people. This sort of thing I have found all across the country. You can have a very poor university or college and there will always be a few good biologists there. Partly, it's because many of the poor schools are in locations that are poor from the point of view of, say, chemistry or English literature, but they are often very good places from the point of biology--particularly if the faculty are field biologists. Santa Barbara had some good biologists. Elmer Noble was sort of the senior member, and he's a good sound person. And Mary Erickson was a good person--good research. So, my immediate associates were people of quality. But, there was one person left over from the old days, Pop Wells (Harrington Wells), who was not good. And then, there was also Dean Sweet (Miss Helen E. Sweet). She was Dean of Women. The biologists had urged the college to make her Dean of Women; which she was for years. But finally she was booted out of that job--much to our horror, because that meant that we in the Biology Department had to take her back.


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