Pol Duwez, Caltech Professor of Materials Science, b.1907-1984
Beckman Institute, Caltech, Home of the Materials and Process Simulation Center
© Owen Pietrokowsky and Materials Means: Science and Technology Blog, 2014.
Email Owen at opietro@ yahoo dot com
After the office visit with Professor Duwez were the labs: lab after lab of metals and metal-making machines. There were tall cylindrical tanks of compressed gases standing guard like sentries and glass cabinets full of crystal-structure models. There were stately electron microscopes, balances, strain gauges, electric-arc furnaces, diffractometers, vacuum chambers, micro-hardness testers, powder blenders, fatigue testers, and vacuum furnaces.
On desks, tables, and lab benches lay metals of nearly every imaginable shape: ingots, sheets, rods, pellets, wires, bars and slugs. These alloys began as heterogeneous powders varying in glint, size and granularity. After mixing, blending and melting in furnaces they became uniform solids. What began as pharmacopoeia ended as metallica. Room after room of metallica. And more: an atmosphere, a tangible aura of modern and mythic melded together.
It seemed to me as if Midas himself had preceded me in all the brilliance of his metallic manifestations. Midas! The legendary king whose gilded touch turned base matter to gold. Brass touched with tin became bronze; iron alloyed with carbon engendered steel. Here in these labs his touch was not just fabled Midian gold; it was silver, copper, zinc, tin and titanium. It was brittleness, hardness, stress-intensity, and tensile strength. Metals had a range and quality in their perfections and faults that mirrored the human heart.