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Mormon Scientist: The life and faith of Henry Eyring.

Memoirs of the man who fused science & religion

Memories of Dr. Eyring

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  • Going the second mile for a humble undergradduate

    David Brighton Timmins |  posted: June 29, 2008 |  occurred: Sometime in the spring of 1952 |  permalink

    When I was still an undergraduate at the University of Utah in 1952 I got a note from the secretary of my major department saying that Graduate School Dean Henry Eyring would like to see me. With some fear and trembling that there was a problem with my major or with my graduation plans I showed up at the Dean’s office.

    Dean Eyring told me he’d been going over my transcript and found that I had many more classes than needed to graduate. Moreover, several of these were Upper Division classes in which I ‘d gotten A’s which could count as graduate classes. If I took a couple of more summer school classes I could graduate with a Masters as well as my B.S. This meant that when I joined the US Diplomatic Service after graduation I was inducted one grade higher (with a higher salary) than others of my group of new Foreign Service Officers.

    I wondered at the time why Dean Eyring would spend time going over the records of a humble undergraduate. I now realize he took seriously his objective of turning the University of Utah into a major graduate university and was rounding up every student eligible for a graduate degree. But I wonder how many other U students he gave such an important leg up in life.

    David Brighton Timmins; BS, MS, University of Utah; PhD, Harvard; US Foreign Service Officer (ret.)

  • The Recipient of the “Doctor of Letters”

    Julia O. Witmer |  posted: June 16, 2008 |  occurred: Around 1964 |  permalink

    My grandfather Arthur H. Aamodt was the recipient of the Doctor of Letters that was mentioned in the Friend section of Mormon Scientist. I remember my grandfather talking about Dean Erying many times and the great respect he had for Dr. Eyring. He had such respect for him that he was the only speaker at my grandfather’s funeral.

  • Freshman chemistry class

    Paul W. Jacobson |  posted: May 23, 2008 |  occurred: 1956 |  permalink

    We had assembled for our morning chemistry class when it appeared the instructor was not coming. We were meeting in the large lecture room in the chem building on the circle at the U, and suddenly, in walks Dr. Eyring, to substitute in a freshman chemistry class.

    We were studying atomic matter and he taught us about the electrons circling around the nucleus. What I remember best was how he described the nucleus as the furnace in an apartment building and the electron orbits as the different floors of the building. His point was that the outer orbits were not as stable as the closer ones, much as the tenents on the first floor were warmer and more comfortable that those on the top floor. I will never forget that lecture, and the fun he had teaching us this principle.

  • Henry Eyring – Inspiring Teacher

    Clarence John Funk |  posted: April 26, 2008 |  occurred: April 26, 2008 |  permalink

    My wife, Joan, and I just finished reading “Mormon Scientist”. The book brought back many wonderful memories. We both attended Utah State University. Joan graduated in mathematics in 1965, and I graduated in physics in 1966. I enjoyed studying physical chemistry, and during this period I had the privilege of attending several lectures from Henry Eyring that were taught in Widstoe Hall.

    During one his lectures Dr. Eyring sensed that many in his audience including myself were not following some of the technical points he was making in his presentation. He immediately stopped his discourse on chemical kinetics and made a provocative statement to the effect that his experience in teaching the chemistry faculty and students at USU had just provided another piece of evidence for his faith in the existence of God. He said that some of people in the lecture hall had clearly demonstrated that they were more intelligent than the other people in the room. He then stated that a gradation in intelligence could be observed in any collection of people who were now living on the earth or who had ever lived. Professor Eyring concluded his comment by stating that the God whom he believed in was the most intelligent person who exists in the entire universe.

    I found no evidence that would refute Dr. Eyring’s testimony of the existence of a living and personal God during the six years I studied theoretical and applied physics at UCLA or during the forty-two years I worked on the collection, processing, and analysis of National Intelligence as a research scientist for the United States Navy.

  • A Family Home Evening with Henry Eyring

    Jay Lindsay |  posted: April 15, 2008 |  occurred: 1969 - 1970 |  permalink

    While I was attending Stanford University President Henry B. Eyring was bishop of the Stanford Singles ward where I attended. The family home evening group I belonged to surprised Bishop Eyring by flying in his father from Salt Lake City. I give others the credit for making these arrangements. When I came to family home evening Henry Eyring (scientist) was already there. After a short lesson the curtain was drawn and the lights were turned on in the backyard where many from the ward were waiting to be part of the evening.

    I sat next to Henry Eyring (scientist) for much of the evening. I knew of his reputation. I knew that he had won virtually all awards given in the field of chemistry. I was frankly in awe sitting next to him. But what I remember most was his unpretentious nature. He reminded me more of a grandfather than anything else. It was refreshing to be with someone who has done so much but has no need to remind everyone of his accomplishments.

  • Congratulations from N. Eldon Tanner

    N. Eldon Tanner |  posted: March 27, 2008 |  occurred: 1967-01-04 |  permalink

    January 4, 1967

    Dear Brother Eyring:

    I was delighted to read in the paper the other day that you were named to receive the National Medal of Science for 1966, the highest honor the Federal Government can bestow for academic achievement. You and those who are responsible for naming you for this honor are to be congratulated.

    I know of no one better prepared for this honor, and it seems that everybody agrees. The thing which is most significant and which means so much to the youth of the Church is for them to realize that men can be worthy of and receive these high honors and carry on as devoted members of the Church living exemplary lives in every way.

    Such examples add great strength to the message I endeavor to give our youth, which is that they should gain in the schools of higher learning all the knowledge possible so as to enjoy and contribute to the great progress that is being made in the many fields of learning. At the same time I try to help them understand that the teachings of the gospel are essential to their success, joy, and happiness in the world and will lead them to salvation and eternal life. Your life contributes greatly to this philosophy.

    Again my congratulations.

    Yours sincerely,

    N. Eldon Tanner

  • Lunches with Henry

    Jon Orgill |  posted: March 16, 2008 |  occurred: 1977-1981 |  permalink

    At some point in the late 70’s I wandered up to Henry’s office door. I was greeted with, “Where did you go on your mission?” I tried to explain that I didn’t go on a mission but I had five older brothers who did. Henry could see I was squirming and said, “Me neither, but I’ll tell ya where I did go; I went to hell and I decided I wasn’t going back.” Henry later told me this was a reference to his job with the steel mill blast furnaces. “Hell on earth” was how he described it. Henry said that was the reason he got an education, so he didn’t have to work in such a place.

    We hit it off and I started to drop by Henry’s humble office and we would eat lunch together. Henry would tell me stories and patiently answer my seemingly endless questions about anything and everything. I had a new best friend.

    On a number of occasions Henry’s son Ted, whose office was down the hall, would race past and Henry would call out, “Hey Ted you need to meet this guy.” I never met Ted, but I remember one day Henry rolling his eyes and saying, “Kids,” as he chuckled to himself. Henry then started telling me stories about each of his kids: “Ted’s like me and Hal’s more like his mother and boy that’s a blessing if there ever was one.”

    Over the next few years I can’t think of too much we didn’t talk about. I admired Henry’s fine mind and his commitment to his work. What lives on in me all these years later and is emblematic of Henry’s life was/is his unique understanding and application of love. To me that was Henry’s example, that was his perfection.

    I love Henry, I miss him, and I think about him all the time.

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