Jeff was hardly three years old when his father had already decided.
Decided what?; you may ask.
Decided that Jeff was either a genius, a precocious child – – – or possibly somewhere in between.
It was not a good decision.
Jeff’s toys were a chemistry book full of diagrams; various atoms, molecules and compounds as you can well imagine. Bars, hexagons, rods, spheres, squares – – – all joined together in a variety of juxtapositions.
His night-time bed stories were those regarding the alchemists of Arabia; always mixing and matching a complexity of liquefied metals. The mysteries of interstitial atoms, latticed frameworks and the never-ending heat treatments; these are what helped Jeff drift off to slumber land.
Oh! You demand an example?
“An Arabian scimitar maker forced his slave to carry a heavy bundle of wood into the desert. A fire was started and the recently hammered scimitar was placed in the hot coals. When the sun rose over the sand dunes the scimitar maker ensured that the red hot scimitar was the same color as the newborn sun. When he was satisfied that it was – – – he plunged it into the slave. This process hardened the steel blade. The scimitar maker then polished the sword and held it over the flames until it was the color of the sand. Again, once satisfied, he plunged it into the dead body of the slave. This process tempered the steel so it would not be brittle.”
Jeff did not sleep well on the nights those Arabian tales were told.
Oh yes, every once in a while his father read him milder stories from “The Magic Ring.”
But this story is not about Arabian tales, it is about chemistry.
By the time Jeff was in high school he was deemed a prodigy. Not necessarily because of his brainpower. It was more likely due to having a million dollar technical education stuffed through his ears – – – nickel by nickel.
And therein laid the problem; education without experience.
TOMORROW: 2. Today, the lab; tomorrow, the world