Emil L. Smith begins this interview by discussing his family background and childhood in New York City. During high school, he learned to play the saxophone and later earned money for college by playing concerts on weekends and holidays. At Columbia University he studied biology under Selig Hecht. In 1938, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to Cambridge University where he worked in David Keilin's laboratory. The outbreak of World War II in Europe forced Smith to return to the US where he worked at Yale, the Rockefeller Institute, and later, E. R. Squibb & Sons. Smith accepted a position at the University of Utah and was a faculty member in both the departments of biochemistry and medicine. He was later Chairman of Biological Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine. Smith concludes the first interview by describing his activities after retirement.
In the second interview, Smith describes his research interests, which have included work with peptidases, immunoglobulins, cytochromes, subtilisin, histones, and glutamate dehydrogenases. Smith discusses his involvement with the International Union of Biochemists and American Chemical Society. He concludes this interview with a recollection of his meeting with Chou En-lai concerning scientific exchange between the United States and China.
Harland G. Wood begins the interview with a brief discussion of his role in the restructuring of Western Reserve University's medical curriculum. He then reflects on his childhood and education, recalling that his former Latin teacher (then, his high school principal) first sparked his interest in chemistry. He chronicles his career in chemistry and molecular biology from his college years at Macalester through his extensive laboratory research at Iowa State College, where he first developed his concept of the fixation of carbon dioxide by bacteria; the University of Minnesota, where he continued this research; various other temporary positions; and finally, his current work at Case Western Reserve University. Throughout the interview, in addition to discussing research and the influence of various colleagues and associates, he often focuses on the numerous advancements that have occurred during his lifetime and their impact (both positive and negative) on the way laboratory research is conducted. He concludes with his thoughts on the future of science, stressing the importance of continued enthusiasm and motivation in scientists of all ages.