Photo, from left: 1936 Olympic competitors in Berlin, Godfrey Brown, Archibald Williams and James Lu Valle
This summer, the eyes of the world will turn to Japan for a slightly out-of-the-ordinary Olympic Summer Games, offering the perfect opportunity to recall a previous notorious Olympics. After completing two degrees with honors at UCLA, James Ellis LuValle (PhD ’40) competed for the U.S. in track at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, earning a Bronze in the 400-meter event and, along with fellow medalist Jesse Owens, undercutting Adolf Hitler’s misguided concepts of German exceptionalism. In 1937, LuValle won his place in Caltech history as the Institute’s first Black graduate student, earning a double degree in chemistry and physics working with Linus Pauling. Lu Valle had a lengthy career, mentoring more than 900 students; working at places such as the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, Eastman Kodak Laboratories, Smith-Corona Marchant, and Stanford University, and conducting research that resulted in three U.S. patents.
– Based on research by Edray Goins, PhD (BS ’94)