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William Lipscomb's 80th Birthday Congratulatory Letters

William Lipscomb Home Page
Nobel Prize Scrapbook, 1976
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  1. Jerome Karle and Isabella Karle.  Subsequent Nobel Prize winners travel to Sweden in 1951.
  2. Joseph Potenza.  Scooped (sort of), "I predicted that,"  fire and explosions.
  3. Douglas Rees.  Receipt in Bill's lab of the Nobel Prize announcement.
  4. Thomas Steitz.  Bill matches Tom with his future wife.  Written before Steitz's Nobel Prize.
  5. Steve Warren.  Bill the enthusiastic researcher at age 80.
  6. Edward Wong.  Boron hydride explosion ignited by Tesla coil.  Bill directs thesis progress.

1. Jerome Karle and Isabella Karle.  Subsequent Nobel Prize winners travel to Sweden in 1951.

Dr. Jerome Karle and Dr. lsabella Karle
Laboratory for the Structure of Matter, Naval Research Laboratory
Washington, D. C. 20375-5341
Tel: 202-767-2665; FAX; 202-767-0953

A Visit to Sweden, 1951

The goal was to arrive in Stockholm, Sweden, where the second meeting of the International Union of Crystallography was to take place. Four people gathered for the required air travel in Westover, Massachusetts where the MATS (Military Air Transport Service) had a base. Passengers on MATS were requested to arrive a day before takeoff, perhaps because precise scheduling for the flights was not the norm. The next morning, the four people whose final destination was Stockholm gathered for breakfast and joined the two pilots who would conduct their flight. The pilots were rather interested in where the four, Bill Lipscomb, Herbert Hauptman and Isabella and Jerome Karle, were located and the nature of their scientific interests. Toward the end of the conversation, one of the pilots reflected that such well-trained people were all traveling on the same flight and said, "putting all your eggs in one basket, eh?"

The flight was without incident, but extremely long, since this was the time of propeller planes, in this case a DC4. There was a stop in Gander, Newfoundland, a stop in the Azores, a stop in Paris, and, finally, a stop in Frankfurt where we spent the night in a hotel with only one-half of the building left standing. Recovery from World War Il had not yet proceeded and the city was largely a shambles. The railroad station, where we had to go the next day to obtain transportation on Scandinavian Airlines, had every glass pane blown out. These glass panes, held by narrow metal frames, normally composed the entire roof of the station, a characteristic of railroad stations in Germany. Buildings along both sides of the Main River, which passes through the city, were completely flattened. We had to go to the railroad station to get airline tickets because the American military had a transportation office there. That evening we flew to Stockholm and were met with fine hospitality that included Students who met us, helped with our luggage and led us to our hotels.

There were numerous highlights at the meeting. At the opening ceremony, conducted by the President of the International Union of Crystallography, Sir Lawrence Bragg, the King of Sweden, who was a geologist, came to address the participants. There was, of course, the opportunity to meet the persons who were early developers of X-ray diffraction and other colleagues from many countries, many for the first time.

This was also a time when various parts of the world were more diverse than they are now; and the diversity added much to the pleasure of the visit. The setting of the city of Stockholm and surrounding territories, such as the Archipelago and the Skansen, were fascinating. We very much enjoyed the many konditori, coffee shops with wonderful hot chocolate and chocolate baked goods. We made a point of having breakfast in such places.

lt was customary in the restaurants as part of their hospitality to refrain from giving customers the check, even though they were clearly finished eating. One evening, Isabella and Jerome were having dinner with Arnold Beevers and some others. Since there was an evening session at the meeting, we had to eat fairly rapidly and then leave the restaurant immediately. Arnold Beevers requested the  ďcheck" from the waitress. She did not know how to respond. None of us knew the word "rechnen," meaning the "reckoning" in English. So, finally, it occurred to Beevers to try to ask for the "bill." This brought a smile of understanding to the waitress and she dashed away, soon returning with a pack of cigarettes called BILL.

We all had a wonderful experience, which probably encouraged the four of us to do good work so that we could return some time to Stockholm as guests of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This seemed to have worked since three of the four, who were all in one basket, returned later in life to receive the Nobel Prize and the fourth returned to receive the Gregory Aminoff Award for distinguished research in X-ray crystallography.

All the best Bill
Isabella, Jerome

More Information

Wikepedia page about Jerome Karle

Wikepedia page about Isabella Karle

2. Joseph Potenza.  Scooped (sort of), "I predicted that,"  fire and explosions.

Department of Chemistry Wright-Rieman Laboratories
610 Taylor Rd Piscataway New Jersey 08854-8087 U.S.A.
Voice: 732/4145-.21 15 FAX: 732/445-5312
E-mail: potenza@rutchem.rutgersedu

Joseph A. Potenza
University Professor

March 1, 2000

Dear Colonel,

No one who has had the pleasure of working under your direction can ever forget the thrill of it - your guidance, your inspiration, your ability to teach so many so well, the exciting research and the resulting accomplishments. For many of us, you invented diversity, especially scientific diversity, long before it became a buzzword in American society. We continue to marvel at your ability to conduct cutting-edge research in so many areas. In the early l960`s. it was the theory of chemical bonding with the likes of Marshall Newton and Truman Jordan, the structure of natural products (Ruth Lewin and Jean Hartsuck), the synthesis of novel boron hydrides (Russell Grimes, Larry Friedman, Herb Beall, John Enemark), the structure of boron hydrides and their friends (Peter Boer, Bob Dobrott, Don Voet. myself) and of course carboxypeptidase with Martha Ludwig, Tom Steitz, Florante Quiocho and many others. In some instances the work was ahead of its time, awaiting the development of larger, more powerful computers or other new techniques. Witness Don Voetís attempt to solve what was then a rather complex structure using translation and rotation functions to fit a Patterson map. But, most of all we can never forget the spirit with which you approached research. your guidance of so many, your ability to spend time with each of us every day to move our projects along and to inspire us.

Here then are some remembrances of my four years at Harvard and succeeding years from the perspective of one of your graduate students.
  • The Fall of Rigaku-Denki - from the third floor of Gibbs that is.
  • The group get-togethers at your home with the small children of the group members downstairs. You rubbed our infant sonís tummy and called him little Bhudda. I don't know if that brought you much luck, but it surely didnít harm him; heís now an assistant professor of Psychiatry at a competing institution in New Haven.
  • Being informed by you and Roald Hoffman that the structure I had worked on for six months had been solved and published by a Russian group. But, not to worry - their structure was wrong. And, of course, it was.
  • Driving your son to New York in a l960 Nash Metropolitan convertible
  • Hearing "I predicted that" over and over, and knowing that it was true.
  • Trying to put out a fire of burning boron hydrides in the hood on the second floor of Gibbs, and watching in horror as the groupís samples exploded one by one.
  • The day the custodians cleaned the blackboard in your office.
  • Margaret typing manuscripts.
  • Watching the sun rise from the third floor of Gibbs.
  • Eating fried Southern ham with Bill Moncrief and wondering how so much salt could fit into so small a volume.
  • Feeding boxes of computer cards to a card reader in the computer center at 1 A. M. and watching half of them get shredded.
  • Working with the card-fed Supper-Pace Diffractometer in Gordon McKay and removing shredded cards from it with a toothpick.
  • Waiting in the darkroom for films to develop.
  • The day a high school student turned down a rheostat.
  • Selling computer cards to raise money for group parties.
  • Sharing an office with a Scotsman who felt that 50 F was the maximum allowable office temperature.
  • Hearing you play the Brahms clarinet trio at the Harvard Faculty Club.
  • Throwing darts in the basement of Gibbs.
  • Learning from your book on boron hydrides and your notes on group theory.
  • Reading thousands of intensities using film strips.
  • Buying reading glasses.
  • Hearing your views on smoking, a preview of what was to come.
  • Sharing in the disappointment when something didnít work well (rare).
  • Partaking in the pleasure of accomplishment when a project was completed well (common).
  • Hosting your distinguished lecture series at Rutgers (1973), complete with dual projectors for three-dimensional slides.
  • Hearing the announcement of the Nobel Laureate in Chemistry for 1976.
  • Applauding your receipt of an honorary degree from Rutgers (l979).
  • Chatting with you at the Humboldt Colloquium at the Institute for Advanced Study (1981, picture below).
By all accounts, the twenty-first century will be known as the century of science, a century launched by the efforts of todayís scientists. to be concluded by future generations. Through your efforts and great ability and with the help of the thousands of scientists you have inspired and taught, you have contributed greatly to that designation. In fact, you probably predicted it.

Potenza's Publications with Lipscomb

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of m-B10Cl10C2H2," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 56, 1917-1919 (1966).

Boer, F. P., Hegstrom, R. A., Newton, M. D., Potenza, J. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., ďChemical Shifts of Boron-11 in lcosahedral Carboranes," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 88, 5340-5342 (1966).

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of Carboranes. Molecular and Crystal Structure of o-B10Br2H8C2H2Inorg. Chem. 5, 1471 (1966).

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of Carboranes. Molecular and Crystal Structure of o-B10Br3H7C2H2Inorg. Chem. 5, 1478 (1966).

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of Carboranes. Molecular and Crystal Structure of o-B10Br4H6C2(CH3)2," Inorg. Chem. 5, 1483 (1966).

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Comments on the Inductive Rule in Carboranes. Charge Distribution B8C2H10 Isomers," Inorg. Chem. 5, 1301 (1966).

Potenza, J. A., Lipscomb, W. N., Vickers, G. D., and Schroeder, H., "Order of Electrophilic Substitution in 1,2 Dicarbaclovododecaborane(12) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Assignment," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 88, 628 (1966).

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of Carboranes. A 1,2-Dicarbaclovododecaborane Derivative, B10Cl8H2C2H2," Inorg. Chem. 3, 1673 (1964).

Potenza, J. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of a Carborane (1,2-Dicarbaclovododecaborane) Derivative, B10Cl8H2C2H2," J. Am. Chem, Soc. 86, 1874 (1964).

More Information

Joseph Potenza at Rutgers

3. Douglas Rees.  Receipt in Bill's lab of the Nobel Prize announcement.


Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 147-7SCH
Pasadena, California 91125

Douglas C. Rees
Professor of Chemistry
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Office Telephone: (626) 395-8393
FAX: (626) 744-9524

April 7, 2000

Colonel William N. Lipscomb
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Harvard University
12 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Colonel,

Congratulations on this wonderful occasion! It is a real privilege to have had the opportunity to work with you as a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow between 1976-1981 with one of the great benefits being able to participate in this grand event. In addition to the scientific highs (and lows) provided by my research projects, there were many memorable experiences from this time, a few of which are shared below:

First Impressions: Growing up in Lexington, Kentucky, I first heard about you from the Duane family, following my acquaintance with, and growing interest in, Becky. Betty Duane knew your mother well from working at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, while Becky was taking piano lessons from Helen. Upon hearing that you were a chemist at Harvard University, I figured that you couldn't be too famous since I had completed high school chemistry and hadn't heard of you! (This was one of my early lessons that there may be more than one inference possible from a limited set of observations). Fortunately, I soon learned that this was not the case. My first direct meeting with you was when you played in a memorial service for your sister in Lexington, the year before I started graduate school and subsequently joined your group. I still recall my surprise and pleasure when, after addressing you "Professor Lipscomb", you replied "Call me the Colonel", which set a great tone for my subsequent time in the lab.

The Hardest Structure: In retrospect, I believe I was rather fortunate to have spent much of my graduate school efforts in the 5th floor lab at Gordon McKay. Assorted legacies from many of my predecessors were strewn about the lab, and I was able to read notebooks and manuscripts detailing various crystallographic projects. I was especially impressed with the small molecule work that you and your group did, since it seemed that some clever observation (such as systematic trends in the intensities of various classes of reflections) and a novel Patterson method were used to solve each structure. On one occasion, I remember asking what you felt was the hardest structure to have been solved in your lab. I expected to hear a heroic account about a boron hydride, or oxygen or nitrogen, where the structure was only solved by some amazing insight, analytical prowess or experimental wizardry. Accordingly, I was rather surprised and initially somewhat disappointed to hear the answer "Aspartate transcarbamylase, since we haven't finished it yet" (this was around 1978). I later appreciated that this attitude is essential in science; once a project is completed, it is in the past, while the new challenges and the best work are in the present and the future.
The Nobel Prize: On October 18, 1976, Paul Kuttner, Leo Brown and I were in the student office next to your office, when George Eisele (I believe) called around Sam. Leo answered the phone, and then called his wife. Paul and I overheard parts of the conversation, and it was clear it concerned the Nobel Prize. Paul was (and still is) a man of action, and he immediately reacted by calling the Boston Globe to find out who had won the Nobel Prize. When told "Professor Lipscomb of Harvard University", we looked at each other in amazement. Equally amazing was the Colonel's presence in the office at that time (I have since wondered how much of a coincidence that was). We ran to the office, to tell you "Congratulations, you've won the Nobel Prize". Your response, "Are you sureĎ?", was a real moment of truth, since I figured crystallographic Siberia would await us if we were wrong. Fortunately, the information was correct. That entire period was incredibly exciting, even for someone who had just joined the group and didn't know boron from beryllium. This experience didn't seem to go to your head; on a later occasion when some problem was being worked out, you allowed as how you were just interested in the answer, since you weren't trying to win a second Nobel Prize.

How to run a lab: Having experienced and observed different labs, I find that I appreciate more and more the way you ran your lab. You provided a fertile environment (physically, intellectually and financially), and we were expected to do research. You were available to discuss problems, projects and results, but we were free to approach our projects however we wished. While there were many false starts, eventually the projects would be completed. The experience of directly finding out what worked and what didnít (and why) was an invaluable lesson for the future. Furthermore, not only did you personally have an unlimited range of scientific interests, you also encouraged us to explore our own projects, even when they were unrelated to the major research thrust. Your talents and diverse interests attracted many students and postdocs that made the lab an exciting experience. In my own situation, veteran group members such as Jim Crawford (crystallography), Dennis Marynick (theory) and Larry Jacobsberg (biochemistry) were all influential and provided a unique blend of perspectives on science. In summary, you trained us to be scientists; to identify problems, to devise both experimental and theoretical approaches to these problems, and to pursue and diversify our interests (both scientific and personal). I am certain most of us would be highly pleased to have a fraction of your impact on our students and on science.

Thanks, Colonel.

With very best wishes on this wonderful occasion,

Douglas C. Rees

Rees' Publications with Lipscomb

Rees, D. C., Howard, J. B., Chakrabarti, P., Yeates, T., Hsu, B. T., Hardman, K. D., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Crystal Structures of Metallosubstituted Carboxypeptidase A," Prog. Inorg. Biochem. Biophys. 1, 154-166 (1986).

Shoham, G., Rees, D. C., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Effects of pH on the structure and function of carboxypeptidase A: crystallographic studies," Proc. Natl. Acad. of Sci., USA 81, 7767-7771 (1984).

Shoham, G., Rees, D. S., Lipscomb, W. N., Zanotti, G., and Wieland, T., "Crystal and Molecular Structure of S-Deoxo[IIe3]amaninamide: A synthetic Analogue of Amanita Toxins," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 106, 4606-4615 (1984).

Rees, D. C. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Crystallographic studies on apocarboxypeptidase A and the complex with glycyl-L-tyrosine," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 80, 7151-7154 (1983).

Rees, D. C., Lewis, M., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Refined crystal structure of carboxypeptidase A at 1.54 A resolution," J. Mol. Biol. 168, 367-387 (1983).

Rees, D. C. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Refined crystal structure of the potato inhibitor complex of carboxypeptidase A at 2.5 resolution," J. Mol. Biol. 160, 475-498 (1982).

Rees, D. C. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Binding of ligands to the active site of carboxypeptidase A," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78, 5455-5459 (1981).

Rees, D. C., Lewis, M., Honzatko, R. B., Lipscomb, W. N., and Hardman, K. D., "Zinc Environment and cis Peptide Bonds in Carboxypeptidase A at 1.75 A Resolution," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78, 3408-3412 (1981).

Rees, D. C. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Structure of the Potato Inhibitor Complex of Carboxypeptidase A at 2.5 A Resolution," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 77, 4633 (1980).

Rees, D. C., Honzatko, R. B., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Structure of an Actively Exchanging Complex between Carboxypeptidase A and a Substrate Analogue," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 77, 3288-3291 (1980).

Rees, D. C. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Structure of Potato Inhibitor Complex of Carboxypeptidase A at 5.5 A Resolution," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 77, 277-280 (1980).

More Information

Douglas C. Rees at the California Institute of Technology

The Rees Lab, A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Laboratory in the Division of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology

3. Thomas Steitz.  Bill matches Tom with his future wife.

To the Colonel:

In 1964 I was sitting at a balance in Gibbs; I was weighing out platinum tetrachloride in preparation for doing a heavy atom soak with carboxypeptidase when the Colonel came up behind me and said, "I hope you wonít consider this immoral." I stopped and waited in great anticipation for whatever statement was to follow that one. The Colonel said that Christopher Longett Higgins. a distinguished theoretical chemist and pianist. was visiting Harvard from England and it was the Colonelís plan to gather a few of his fellow musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra at his house in order to play chamber music. He was inviting a few friends over to listen and wondered whether I would ask a first-year graduate student. Joan Argetsinger, to accompany me to this evening concert at his home. He and Joan had met some years earlier in Minneapolis when he was in the chemistry department at the University of Minnesota and occasionally participated in playing chamber music at the Unitarian Society, as did Joan. I, as it turned out, was pleased to do this, and we went along to a very nice evening of chamber music. I only learned many years later that Joan had already had plans for that evening but changed them, not in order to have a date with me, but rather to be able to hear some good chamber music. That was our first date and the rest, as they say. is history.

I had originally come to Harvard thinking that I might wish to do my graduate research in the laboratory of Paul Dody, since I was very interested in the physical chemistry of macromolecules. After waiting weeks on a couple of occasions in order to talk to Dody, between his many trips to Washington. I was frustrated and disappointed at the disorganized conversations that I had with him. In the spring of 1964 Max Perutz came to Harvard Medical School to present three Dunham Lectures on the crystal structures of myoglobin and hemoglobin. I remember the enormous excitement in that packed, extremely large lecture room when Perutz showed the first stereo slide of a macromolecule that any of us had ever seen and the loud "Oh" that simultaneously emanated from the whole audience when it finally came into three-dimensional view. I found these three lectures to be extremely exciting and immediately recognized that protein crystallography was the way to understand protein structure and function at the atomic level. I lamented to a graduate student of Lipscombís, Peter Boer, with whom I was playing tennis that it was too bad that no one at Harvard did protein crystallography since I strictly wished to enter this field. He pointed out to me that Lipscomb had a group that had been working on carboxypeptidase for a couple of years and suggested that I go talk to him. I remember going excitedly to his office hoping to make an appointment to see him at some point in the future. I was surprised and pleased after my experiences with Dody that he immediately invited me into his office to talk about possible projects on carboxypeptidase; we sealed the deal then and there.

I had a simply wonderful time in the Lipscomb laboratory. I loved the carboxypeptidase project and often daydreamed about what the active site of an enzyme might actually look like. At that time, active sites were represented by the crudest of cartoons with the enzyme being represented by an indented rectangle labeled E.

I delighted in the extreme diversity of the laboratory - the vacuum line boron hydride chemists, the small molecule X-ray crystallographers, the theoretical chemists off in their separate room and the protein crystallographers trying to do something none of them had ever done before. I thought that the Colonel must be extremely smart to be able to talk to all of these people and be on top of what they were doing.

I learned a lot about how an outstanding research laboratory is run during my time under his mentorship. I do not think that it is an accident or simply good fortune on his part that so many of his former students and postdocs have been so successful in their careers after leaving his laboratory. He got us excited and he got us thinking, infecting us with his own boundless enthusiasm when every evening he came bounding through the lab to see what was new. He inspired us by positive reinforcement of success not by badgering and tormenting the unsuccessful. We were always made to feel that we could do anything we wished if we tried hard enough and, indeed, we did. I sometimes wonder ifI did not take some of his principles too seriously. I remember his recounting on several occasions the dictum he attributed to Linus Pauling that any scientist who never made a mistake was a scientist who never tried to do anything important and creative. I suppose I cannot assume that since I have put forward hypotheses that subsequently proved to be not correct that, therefore, I have been doing important and creative work. Nevertheless, we were all encouraged, both by example and by suggestion, to ask the big questions and think about the big picture rather than get bogged down in detail.

When Joan and I decided to get married in 1966 and invited the Colonel to come to our wedding he responded by offering to not only come but invite two of his friends from the Minneapolis Symphony to join him in playing the Haydn London Trios at the wedding and the reception afterwards. We both greatly appreciated this wonderful and generous offer on his part and the marvelous contribution that it made to the occasion at that time. As I look back, being now as busy myself as he was at that time. I appreciate even more what a thoughtful and generous gift of his time that was.

Thomas A. Steitz

Steitz's Publications with Lipscomb

Lipscomb, W. N., Hartsuck, J. A., Reeke, G. N., Quiocho, F. A., Bethge, P. H., Ludwig, M. L., Steitz, T. A., Muirhead, H., and Coppola, J. C., "The Structure of Carboxypeptidase A. VII. The 2.0 A Resolution Studies of the Enzyme and of its Complex with Glycyl-Tyrosine, and Mechanistic Deductions," Brookhaven Symposia in Biology (June 3-5, 1968: 1968) 24.

Reeke, G. N., Hartsuck, I. A., Ludwig, M. L., Quiocho, F. A., Steitz, T. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., "The Structure of Carboxypeptidase A. V1. Some Results at 2.0 A Resolution and the Complex with Glycyl-Tyrosine at 2.8 A Resolution," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 58, 2220-2226 (1967).

Steitz, T. A., Wiley, D. C., and Lipscomb, W. N., ďThe Structure of Aspartate Transcarbamylase. I. A Molecular Two Fold Axis in the Complex with Cytidine Triphosphate," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 58, 1859-1861 (1967).

Steitz, T. A., Ludwig, M. L., Quiocho, F. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., "The Structure of . Carboxypeptidase A. V. Studies of Enzyme-Substrate and Enzyme-Inhibitor Complexes at 6 A Resolution," J. Biol. Chem. 242, 4662-4668 (1967).

Ludwig, M. L., Hartsuck, J. A., Steitz, T. A., Muirhead, H., Coppola, J. C., Reeke, G. N., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Structure of Carboxypeptidase A, IV. Preliminary Results at 2.8 A Resolution and a Substrate Complex at 6 A Resolution,Ē Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 57, 511-514 (1967).

Lipscomb, W. N, Ludwig, M. L., Hartsuck, J. A., Steitz, T. A., Muirhead, H., Coppola, J. C., Reeke, G. N., and Quiocho, F. A., "Molecular Structure of Carboxypeptidase A at 2.8 A Resolution and an Isomorphous Enzyme-Substrate Complex at 6 A Resolution," Federation Proc. 26, 385 (1967).

Coppola, J. C., Hartsuck, J. A., Ludwig, M. L., Muirhead, H., Searl, J., Steitz, T. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., "The Low Resolution Structure of Carboxypeptidase A, "Acta Cryst. 21, A160 (1966).

Ludwig, M. L., Coppola, J. C., Hartsuck, J. A., Muirhead, H., Searl, J., Steitz, T. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of Carboxypeptidase A at 6 A Resolution," Federation Proc. 25, Part I, 346 (1966).

Lipscomb, W. N., Coppola, J. C., Hartsuck, J. A., Ludwig, M. L., Muirhead, H., Searl, J., and Steitz, T. A., "The Structure of Carboxypeptidase A. III. Molecular Structure at 6 A Resolution," J. Mol. Biol. 19, 423-441 (1966).

Steitz, T. A. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Molecular Structure of Methyl Ethylene Phosphate," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 87, 2488 (1965).

Hartsuck, J. A., Ludwig, M. L., Muirhead, H., Steitz, T. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Carboxypeptidase A. II. The Three-dimensional Electron Density Map at 6 A Resolution," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 53, 396-403 (1965).

More Information

Tom Steitz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009.

Some of the story above is retold by Tom Steitz and retold by Joan and Tom Steitz in the Rememberences section of this website.

Wikepedia page about Tom Steitz

Tom Steitz at Yale

5. Steve Warren.  Bill the enthusiastic researcher at age 80.

Time Travel

by Steve Warren, April 2000

In l998 I was passing through Boston on the way to a conference, together with my new student Melanie who had just arrived from Australia. I had not been to Boston for many years, but we had only one day for sightseeing. So we made our way over to Harvard to show Mel where her advisor had been a student long ago, before she was born.

It was a sunny Sunday morning in June; the trees were green and the flowers were in bloom. We walked through the quiet Yard. across the overpass and up Frisbee Lane toward the imposing front of Gibbs Lab. I was just then reaching into my pocket for the key, which I had kept all these years, when over to our left the door of the Chemistry Library opened, and to my amazement out stepped Bill Lipscomb! He looked just as I had remembered: I was transported back in time thirty years. He was still deep in thought about the journals heíd been reading, but when I called his name he looked up and recognized me instantly.

Bill opened the door of Gibbs Lab (thereís a new lock now; my key was long obsolete) and showed us all the new laboratory facilities. But I was happy to see that some things hadn`t changed: the molecular model of carboxypeptidase was still on display. as it had been since my first days as a graduate student back in the l960s. We followed Bill up to his office and the memories flooded back. "Mel," I said, "this is the very room where I defended my thesis!"

Bill eagerly showed us his projects and his X-ray machines. Finally we had to leave, but my memory of him on that day will long persist, as a model of the enthusiasm and liveliness possible in an eighty-year-old scientist.

Warren's Publications with Lipscomb

Honzatko, R. B., Crawford, J. L., Monaco, H. L., Ladner, J. E., Edwards, B. F. P., Evans, D. R., Warren, S. G., Wiley, D. C., Ladner, R. C., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Crystal and molecular structures of native and CTP-liganded aspartate carbamoyltransferase from Escherichia coli," J. Mol. Biol. 160, 219-263 (1983).

Lipscomb, W. N., Evans, D. R., Edwards, B. F. P., Warren, S. G., Pastra-Landis, S. C., and Wiley, D. C., "Three-Dimensional Structures at 5.5 A Resolution and Regulatory Processes in Aspartate Transcarbamylase from E. coli," J. Supramolecular Structure 2, 82-99 (1974).

Edwards, B. F. P., Evans, D. R., Warren, S. G., Monaco, H. L., Landfear, S. M., Eisele, G., Crawford, J. L., Wiley, D. C., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Complex of Aspartate Transcarbamoylase from Escherichia coli with its Allosteric Inhibitor, Cytidine Triphosphate: Electron Density at 5.5 A Resolution," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 71, 4437 (1974).

Warren, S. G., Edwards, B. F. P., Evans, D. R., Wiley, D. C., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Aspartate Transcarbamoylase from E. coli. Electron Density at 5.5 A Resolution," Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 70, 1117-1121 (1973).

Evans, D. R., Warren, S. G., Edwards, B. F. P., McMurray, C. H., Bethge, P. H., Wiley, D. C., and Lipscomb, W. N., "The Aqueous Central Cavity in Aspartate Transcarbamylase from E. coli," Science 179, 683 (1973).

Wiley, D. C., Evans, D. R., Warren, S. G., McMurray, C. H., Edwards, B. F. P., Franks, W. A., and Lipscomb, W. N., "The 5.5 A Resolution Structure of the Regulatory Enzyme, Aspartate Transcarbamylase," Cold Spring Harbor Symposium 36, 285-290 (1971).

More Information

Steve Warren at the University of Washington

6. Edward Wong.  Explosion ignited by Tesla coil.  Bill directs thesis progress.


Department of Chemistry
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Parsons Hall
23 College Road
Durham, New Hampshire 03824-3598
(603) 862-1550
Fix; (603) 862-4278

March 31, 2000

As I look back on my graduate school experience under the mentorship of the Colonel 25 years ago, I recall discouraging and trying periods as well as exhilarating and joyous moments. Together these comprise my version of "My Time with Colonel".

During my third year as a graduate student in the Lipscomb Group, I foolishly tested a vacuum-line leak by applying a Tesla Coil to a sample of CsB3H8! Needless to say, the resulting explosion shattered the tube and chipped my glasses, cut my face, and singed my hair, to say nothing of damaging my pride. When he learned of this mishap, Colonel was quite concerned about my well-being and showed me much kindness, greatly aiding my recovery.

My thesis project of synthesizing B8H8, however, was going nowhere. I still remember being very discouraged and demoralized, even wondering whether I should consider alternate careers. Despite my lack of progress towards my degree, Colonel was unfailingly positive and supportive through out this unproductive period. After selecting an alternative synthetic project late into my program, my thesis work started to finally gather momentum, and the proverbial light appeared at the end of the Ph.D. tunnel. Or so I thought! I distinctly remember the day Colonel and I discussed some results and his saying something to the effect that, as a Lipscomb student, I should really complete an X-ray diffraction study before finishing up. I didnít expect this extra work but nonetheless proceeded to go about growing crystals of a carborane Iíve made. Unfortunately, the one diffractometer we had for small molecules at the time was an extremely balky Picker instrument that relied on a single company technician, Tom Harris, to keep limping along. Since Tom traveled all over the world servicing similar instruments, I remember saying many a prayer for his safe return from trips overseas. Somehow, with a great deal of help from Mrs. Chiu, things did work out and my thesis work was completed.

The last summer months of 1974 in the Colonelís Group was a heady time for me, waiting for final Orteps to print out at MIT, typing up my thesis on a portable typewriter, drafting a manuscript for Inorganic Chemistry, finalizing wedding plans for late August, plotting a honeymoon drive across the country through Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia before a post-doc with Fred Hawthorne at UCLA in October.

On this occasion of Colonelís 80th birthday, I want to express my recognition and gratitude for the indelible and beneficial influence his mentorship has had on me personally and professionally. Thanks, Colonel!

Edward H. Wong

Wong's Publications with Lipscomb

Wong, H. S. and Lipscomb, W. N., "Studies on the Thermal Rearrangements of Chlorophosphacarboranes. Molecular and Crystal Structure of 9,10-Dichloro-phosphacarborane," Inorg. Chem. 14, 1350-1357 (1975).

Tolpin, E. I., Wong, H. S., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Binding Studies of Boron Hydride Derivatives to Proteins for Neutron Capture Therapy," J. Medicinal Chem. 17, 792 (1974).

Wong, H. S., Tolpin, E. I., and Lipscomb, W. N., "Boron Hydride Derivatives for Neutron Capture Therapy: Antibody Approach," J. Medicinal Chem. 17, 785 (1974).

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Edward Wong at the University of New Hampshire

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From a book (a Festschrift, a party book) of congratulatory letters presented to William Lipscomb on his 80th birthday these congratulatory letters are presented with permission of William Lipscomb.  Insofar as this transcription from image to text is an owned, new, or derived work, work on this page (text) is by and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You are free to copy, distribute, transmit, and modify the work for both commercial and non-commercial uses. You must attribute the work to website