Pennsylvania Memories is a special series marking the turn of the millennium featuring readers' memories of events, experiences, incidents, individuals, innovations or inventions that profoundly affected them or gave them a deep appreciation of personal history.

Shortly after one o’clock that day, I arrived at the Medical School Building of the University of Pennsylvania, a little Late to be admitted by the campus security guard who routinely unlocked the main door for those of us who did not have keys. I noticed that someone else had missed the usual 1:00 p.m. deadline. He was short, somewhat overweight, and well dressed. I volunteered to bring back the campus guard if he would hold my stack of books and journals.

On entering the building, I went directly to my office in the pharmacology department, with the other gentleman following close behind. He asked permission to make a local telephone call on my office phone. Upon completion of the call, he introduced himself with a handshake as Harry Gold. He was quick to point out that he was not the famous Harry Gold, the New York pharmacologist who had written extensively on the pharmokinetics of digitalis glycosides.

I thought no more of meeting him until a day or so later when, on returning to my apartment, I caught a glimpse of the evening newspaper lying in the hallway. The front page of the newspaper contained a large picture of the Harry Gold I had met on Sunday. The headlined screamed ATOMIC SPY ARRESTED. I was stunned.

My “not-so-famous” Harry Gold was the infamous Harry Gold, the first American atomic spy arrested. He confessed that he had been involved in espionage since 1934 and helped British physicist Klaus Fuchs pass along information about the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union. Other members of the atomic spy network were David Greenglass and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Gold allegedly admitted to having been a Russian agent for much of hls adult life and served as the trusted courier in transferring atomic bomb secrets to the top Russian agent, Anatoli A. Yakovlev, with the Russian Delegation to the United Nations.

Our paths never crossed again – but could have because Gold was imprisoned at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, only twenty miles from Danville, Columbia County, where I served as clinical hematologist at the Geissinger Medical Center from 1958 until retiring in 1991. One of the prison physicians did tell me that Harry Gold did spend some time helping in the facility’s clinical laboratory.

 

The staff of Pennsylvania Heritage thanks Mrs. Kough for her graciousness in permitting publication of her late husband’s “Pennsylvania Memories.”

 

Robert H. Kough, M.D., served in the U.S. Navy after completing his medical schooling during World War II. A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania, he enjoyed a distinguished career, first as n physician and Inter as the founding director of the oncology and hematology department at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Montour County. J. Michael Bishop, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Harold E. Varmus, credits the author as his mentor. In his official Nobel Foundation biography, Bishop – now the chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco – said that while attending high school near York, York County, Dr. Kough aroused in him “an interest not only in the life of a physician but in the fundaments of human biology.” Dr. Kough resided in Danville for more than forty years with Nancy, his wife of fifty-two years, and raised one daughter. Dr. Kough died in June 2003.