08/22/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
ALBERT EINSTEIN HAD JUST ONE Ph.D. British physicist Stephen Hawking, no slouch himself, has just one Ph.D. Harry Kloor has two Ph.D.'s. And he earned them at the same time. Kloor, 31, scored his remarkable simultaneous double—in physics and chemistry—at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., earlier this month, becoming, as far as anyone can determine, the first American to accomplish such a feat.
Of course, to get his two Ph.D.'s, he had to write two theses—one (in physics) about the search for a fifth fundamental force in nature, the other about changes in the properties of magnetite (lodestone) at-238°F. Kloor's physics adviser, Dr. Ephraim Fischbach, was suitably impressed. "What's intimidating," he told The New York Times, "is that in four months he wrote these two theses, totaling more than 700 pages."
Kloor, who took six years to complete both degrees, says he knew since he was a child that he wanted multiple degrees—because so many comic-book scientist-heroes seemed to have them.
The third of four sons whose father was a drapery installer, Kloor was born with both feet pointing backward and spent years wearing metal braces and special shoes. "He was just determined," says his mother, Mary Gray, 65, who remarried after she and Kloor's father divorced and who worked at various times as a nurse's aide, seamstress and bookkeeper. "Nothing ever got him down."
Apart from comic-book heroes, there was another inspiration—a fireman whose name Kloor no longer remembers. "When I was a young child, he came to my class," he says, "and said, 'You can do anything you set your mind to,' and that just stayed with me."
That philosophy inspired him to double simultaneous B.S.'s (also in chemistry and physics) from Southern Oregon State College, two black belts (in kung fu and kickboxing) and a very busy non-academic life that includes fencing, cooking and dancing. And, yes, with all this activity, he does have a girlfriend, 22-year-old Jennifer Wang, a Chicago-based computer-systems consultant.
So what does one do with two Ph.D.'s? Right now, Harry Kloor is director of corporate affairs for Purdue's physics department—but he's hoping for a job offer, preferably from a Fortune 500 company. And yes, he just wants one job.