FOR INTERNATIONAL HOUSE ALUMNA BERNICE TAJIMA, the days after February 19, 1942, were a race against the clock. President Roosevelt had just signed an executive order forcibly relocating people of Japanese descent from their West Coast homes to internment camps across the country. In this climate of extreme suspicion, UC Berkeley’s I-House protected its residents. With the help of I-House staff, Tajima transferred to Chicago’s I-House just in time and escaped internment.
IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.
Newcomers to the Golden State (of which Berkeley has many, the student body now representing 74 countries and all 50 states) are quickly disabused of the beachy, bikini-clad stereotype of California sold to them in song lyrics. Instead, they find themselves immersed in Berkeley’s funky, foggy, nonlinear climate. In fall, while much of the nation is snuggling into sweaters and snarfing down pumpkin spice what-have-you, Bay Area folks are pulling the popsicles from the freezer for the first time, September usually being the hottest month of the year.
Glenn Seaborg was born too late to have spawned Cal’s spirit cry. It’s coincidence, surely, that his name is an anagram for “Go Bears!” And, although he was definitely a Bears fan and was Chancellor when Cal last made it to the Rose Bowl in 1959, he was never in Oski’s league as a campus celebrity. While others led rallies, he had to settle for spearheading decades of trailblazing nuclear science, endowing UC Berkeley with bragging rights to the discovery of a record 16 new elements.
When you check out the table of contents for this iteration of CALIFORNIA you might be surprised by the many entries listed in the feature well. Generally speaking, the well is where we offer up several long-form stories off the theme of the magazine. The number of stories and bylines this time around doesn’t mean we’ve exceeded our usual page count, or eliminated all the other departments. It just means we are offering one very long story and some very short ones.