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The Chemistry of the Visual Pigments

My postgraduate studies under E. C. C. Baly began in October 1921 and among those attracted to Liverpool by the professor’s reputation as a spectroscopist was Selig Hecht, holding a National Research Fellowship. It was from Hecht that Baly’s group first heard of visual purple and dark adaptation, and of the special place of the Journal of General Physiology under Loeb. I was one of Hecht’s subjects in a classical study of ‘The visibility of monochromatic radiation and the absorption spectrum of visual purple’ (Hecht and Williams, 1922). Hecht was a very adaptable and resourceful conversationalist and he kept his Victims’ entertained during the preparatory half hour in darkness. In carrying out his researches he oscillated between the Chemistry Department where he studied visual purple and the Physics Laboratory where he measured visual responses. My interests were in absorption spectrophotometry and I little thought then that I should myself work on visual pigments.

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