August 17, 1930–October 12, 1982
BY IGNACIO TINOCO, JR.
BRUCE MAHAN was born on August 17, 1930, in New Britain, Connecticut, the youngest of three children born to Arthur E. Mahan and Clara Blanche Gray Mahan. He did not reveal much about himself to his colleagues or his students, so there is little information about his early life. It is clear that he did very well in school. His mother told one story about his youth that explains a great deal about his character. His elementary school teacher had told him that his parents must be very proud of him for his good grades. When he said "Not particularly," the teacher called his mother to say that she did Bruce a disservice by not praising him. His mother replied, "I'm happy he is doing well, but it is not necessary to praise him simply for using his God-given gifts to good advantage."
In 1948 he entered Harvard College on a fellowship. He was attracted to chemistry and he distinguished himself rapidly in that subject. He received an A.B. in chemistry in 1952 and as one of the top students he was encouraged to remain there for his graduate work. He decided to carry out his doctoral studies with George Kistiakowsky in physical chemistry. Kistiakowsky had trained with Bodenstein in Berlin, and it was in that tradition that Mahan set out to