Science: The Inquisitive Man

When the school year ended, the serious-faced young chemistry instructor at Hoboken's Stevens Institute of Technology put aside his lecture notes and boarded a train for Schenectady, N.Y. After long months in classroom and lab, even a temporary summer job at the new General Electric Research Laboratory looked good to 28-year-old Brooklyn-born Irving Langmuir, metallurgical engineer (Columbia) and Ph.D. in chemistry (Gottingen). But the job was better than that.

Last week, 40 years later, Chemist-Metallurgist Langmuir announced his retirement as associate director of G.E.'s famed lab. Among his achievements he could count a...

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