When I first discovered Stan's 1954 doctoral dissertation

When I first discovered Stan's 1954 doctoral dissertation

I mentioned in a recent post that my 2016 research trip to Columbia did not result in any breakthrough, except for one thing.

If I was looking for my father's doctoral work, a librarian in Columbia's special collections suggested, I should look for it in the Proquest dissertation database. 

I misunderstood at the time that this was a Columbia University-specific resource, but it is actually a repository of more than five million works contributed by universities around the world going back to 1939. It is maintained by a commercial publisher, Proquest, and is licensed to academic libraries. 

Once logged in, I was able to enter "Stanley L. Ruby" in the search bar, and boom, there it was. 


Stanley Ruby

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, in the Faculty of Pure Science, Columbia University

The date was 1954.

A study in what? Monomolecular films. Tracer technique. This didn't seem to be about nuclear physics at all. 

The abstract talked about solutions of xanthate and adsorption by pyrite and galena. How to create thin coatings on the surface of materials. I'd call it more like physical chemistry, if anything. 

I don't think I saw the whole paper that day, but I came away with the citation and abstract, and only the dimmest idea what to make of it. 

Could this have been a substitute Ph.D. submission to a different Columbia department after his nuclear work with Wu did not go forward for some reason? Having lost his chance to complete his doctorate with Wu in nuclear physics, had he resorted to submitting a quickie thesis in metallurgy or chemistry in a bid for a different doctorate?

If so, it had not succeeded either, as he was not awarded that degree either. 

There was one hint that I had—the name of a Professor Hassialis who was somehow associated with the work. I googled him and learned he was a professor in the Columbia School of Mines who had some kind of connection to the Manhattan Project. 

But there I left things back in 2016. I considered that my hypothesis about the quickie substitute dissertation was likely to be correct. But now, in 2022 on reopening the matter and reading the full dissertation,  I'm not so sure. 

To begin to understand, we'll take a look at Professor Hassialis in the next post.