22 March 2010

Portrait of Competence: Art Robinson

Art Robinson, PhD, lives on a 350 acre farm in Southern Oregon. The Robinson family has long maintained hundreds of sheep and lambs, over a dozen milk cows, dozens of wild turkeys, and miscellaneous dogs. Robinson has raised and homeschooled 6 children on the farm: Zachary has a doctorate in veterinary medicine and Noah has a PhD in chemistry. At present, Arynne is in her third year of work toward a DVM, twins Joshua and Bethany are both in their second year of work toward PhDs in nuclear engineering, and Matthew is in his second and last year of work toward a BS in chemistry. Each of the 6 children was taking college physics and math courses by age 16 -- if not before -- and each typically took only 2 years on-campus to finish undergraduate classwork.

Art Robinson received a BS in Chemistry from Cal Tech -- where he was a student of Linus Pauling -- and a PhD in Chemistry from UCSD, where he taught chemistry for a few years before teaming with Linus Pauling to form the Linus Pauling Institute in Menlo Park. After working with Pauling for several years -- and failing to substantiate Pauling's claims that Vitamin C cures cancer -- Robinson and Pauling had a parting of the ways. Robinson and his wife Lauralee -- also a scientist -- moved to Oregon in 1980 with young sons Zachary and Noah.

Between 1980 and 1988, Robinson and his wife lived happily on the farm -- creating a family of 6 young children, operating the farm and various scientific and other miscellaneous ventures. Then in 1988 within 24 hours of developing flu-like symptoms, Robinson's wife died of hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Their children at that time ranged between ages 12 and 18 months. The older children were being home-schooled by Lauralee, and the youngest was still in diapers.

Art Robinson picked himself up from this sudden tragedy and shouldered the additional responsibilities of single parenthood of 6 young children, most in homeschool. Somehow, Art structured the curriculum and format of the school so that in fact the children were able to teach themselves, for the most part. Then, with the children's help, Art packaged the family's complete homeschool curriculum -- The Robinson Curriculum -- and has been selling thousands of the 22 CD sets a year, at $195 a set.

Sales of the homeschool curriculum plus several other enterprising ventures have put Art's scientific career on a self-sustaining basis.
Suffice it to say that Art Robinson has recovered his financial independence. He no longer needs government grants to pursue the unresolved scientific questions that were put on hold over 20 years ago. In fact, his independence as a scientist is now greater than it would be if he were still at a large research institution. Whether the institution is nominally private, or publicly funded, he points out, most scientific research is held captive by heavy infusions of federal money.

Around the time he heard that the Proceedings of the National Academy would publish the article, Art said: "If we just had a few thousand scientists pursuing their own goals, we'd really be able to get some new research done in this country. As it is, most of them are trapped."

...Art took over Access to Energy in 1993, at the request of its ailing proprietor Petr Beckmann, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado. Beckmann had printed the newsletter on his own press for 20 years. A defector from Communist Czechoslovakia, he valued the First Amendment highly—and exercised it through a printing press in the basement. Until recently, Noah continued to print the newsletter on the same press, which was hauled from Boulder to Oregon. The letter was always a lively read, and Robinson has preserved that quality. It is something you gladly reach for in the mailbox. A subscription costs $35 for individuals, $150 for tax-subsidized organizations (one or two do pay full freight).

...Art's warrior instincts also came to the fore after his daughter Arynne enrolled at Southern Oregon University. To graduate, she was told, she had to take a course called "colloquium," an exercise "specifically designed to destroy her faith, her innocence, her self-respect, and her happiness in her way of life," Art says. Advance placement had allowed the boys to skip this insult. So why not remove her from the school? As it happened, the science faculty was excellent, the university's proximity was convenient, and his tax dollars were paying for this travesty. "What can a student do if the science, engineering and mathematics courses are held hostage by the 'humanities' departments?"

Art informed the university administration that they faced law suits, adverse publicity, and "an ever increasing telephone, fax, and letter campaign." The first two did not worry them, Art says-they had the lawyers and the media. But the third did. It would have involved many thousands of inquiries, and they would be needing extra telephone lines and secretaries. The president backed down at the last minute. "We won this fight without firing a shot," Art told his friends, "but only because we were prepared to shoot." And they were able to do so only because a large number of his subscribers and home-schooling friends "were available to help.

... _IndependentScientist
Robinson and his son Noah -- also a PhD chemist -- work together studying the molecular clock of aging. They have their own lab on the farm -- complete with a very powerful mass spectrometer, and other instruments. They have published multiple papers together in various journals, including the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings and the Journal of Peptide Research.

Art has also been instrumental in countering the mass hysteria of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, circulating a petition against CAGW with tens of thousands of scientists signing. Many more potential movements and enterprises are being worked out and knocked about inside his head -- much to the chagrin of the dieoff leftists of the world.

Most information for this story comes from A Scientist Finds Independence

Other information comes from an update on the Robinson Curriculum home site.

If you take the trouble to read either of the above links, you cannot help but be impressed by the multi-dimensional nature of Art Robinson's life. And still the impact of Robinson and his children (and his late wife) continues to reverberate through their work and through all of those who are influenced by their story, their curriculum, and all of their other numerous ventures and projects.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This man is an inspiration.

Thank you for putting this post up.

Tuesday, 23 March, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yep. Read the stories at the linked sources.

Competence is about the combination of grit, intelligence, executive functioning, resourcefulness and moral character.

Robinson appears to score highly on all counts.

Wednesday, 24 March, 2010  
Blogger ee_ga said...

Thank you for this post I will be purchasing his curriculum for my children.

Wednesday, 24 March, 2010  
Blogger Musing without a muse said...

Art Robinson was my chemistry professor at UCSD in 1971-1972 for General Chemistry. It was the hardest course I ever took. Our text book was Linus Pauling's General Chemistry and Dr. Robinson had Linus Pauling give two lectures to a packed lecture hall.

Friday, 23 December, 2011  

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