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Interview with Ernest H. Swift

Swift, Ernest H. (1980) Interview with Ernest H. Swift. [Oral History]

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An interview in four sessions, in April and May 1978, with Ernest H. Swift, professor of analytical chemistry, emeritus, in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. Dr. Swift received his undergraduate education at Randolph-Macon College and the University of Virginia. He came to Caltech, then Throop College of Technology, as a teaching fellow in 1919 and received his PhD there in 1924. He joined the faculty in 1928, serving as chairman of the chemistry division from 1958 to1963, and became emeritus in 1967. In this wide-ranging interview, he recalls his upbringing in Virginia, his undergraduate education, and his recruitment to Throop by Arthur Amos Noyes. He discusses Noyes’s influence on the development both of Caltech and its chemistry division and describes the early years of the institute, the establishment of the Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory at Corona del Mar, and the contributions of various colleagues, including Stuart Bates, Roscoe Dickinson, James Ellis, William Lacey, and Earnest Watson. Comments on the admission of women, and on playing tennis at Caltech. He discusses Linus Pauling’s chairmanship of the chemistry division, the reactions to Pauling’s political activities, and Pauling’s eventual departure from Caltech. Recalls John D. Roberts’s division chairmanship and his own stint as chairman. Comments on the presidencies of Robert A. Millikan, Lee A. DuBridge, and Harold Brown. The concluding session deals with his own work, including his work on chemical warfare in the run-up to World War II, and he ends with an overview and recap of the chemistry division’s history.

Item Type:Oral History
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Swift_E
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Swift, Ernest H. Interview by Carolyn Harding. Pasadena, California, April 12, 19, 27, and May 4, 1978. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Chemistry
ID Code:213
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:18 Dec 2012 19:04
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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