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Alfred R. Bader

Alfred R. Bader

Detail of Image, CHF Collections, Photograph by Stuart Watson

  • Born: April 28, 1924, Vienna, Austria

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0074
Interview Date: July 31, 1987
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Interviewer: Arnold Thackray
No. of pages: 60
Minutes: 179

  Abstract of Interview

Alfred Bader begins this interview with a discussion of his early years in Vienna, including his family background and Gymnasium education. This is followed by additional education in England, living in Canada as a refugee, and his undergraduate education at Queen's University. Bader then describes his graduate education with Louis F. Fieser at Harvard and discusses the faculty and friends during his tenure there. The interview continues with Bader's move to Milwaukee, his research with PPG, and the origin and growth of the Aldrich Chemical Company, including the merger with Sigma Chemical Company and the decision to go public. The interview concludes with Bader's comments on his art collection and family matters.


1940 Brighton Technical College
1945 B.Sc., Engineering Chemistry, Queen's University
1946 B.A., History, Queen's University
1947 M.S., Chemistry, Queen's University
1949 Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Harvard University

  Professional Experience

Murphy Paint Company

1943 - 1947 Chemist

Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company

1950 - 1954 Research Chemist and Organic Group Leader

Aldrich Chemical Company

- 1951 Co-founder

Aldrich Chemical Company

1954 - 1955 Chief Chemist

Aldrich Chemical Company

1955 - 1975 President

Sigma-Aldrich Corporation

1975 - 1980 President

Sigma-Aldrich Corporation

1980 - Present Chairman


1980 Honorary Sc.D. degree, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
1983 Engineer-of-the-Year Award, Engineers and Scientists of Milwaukee, Inc.
1984 Honorary Sc.D. degree, University of Wisconsin-Madison
1984 Honorary Sc.D. degree, Purdue University
1986 Honorary LL.D. degree, Queen's University

Pittcon Heritage Award, Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy and the Chemical Heritage Foundation

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Parents and family situation in Vienna. "Adopted" mother. Gymnasium education in Vienna. Professor Sedlmayer. Forced to leave school. Stamp collecting. The move to England.

Education in England 4

The East Hove Senior School for Boys. Support from Mrs. Wolff. Living as a refugee with the Scharff family. Brighton Technical College. The move to Canada. Living in a refugee internment camp.

Undergraduate Education in Canada 9

Sponsorship by Martin Wolff. The International Student Service (ISS). Junior and senior matriculation at McGill University. Late registration at Queen's University. Engineering chemistry. Summer job with Murphy Paint Company. Bachelor's degree in engineering chemistry. Bachelor's degree in history. Interest in commercial part of paint chemistry. Laboratory work with Professor McKay. Incident with McKay leading to first publication.

Graduate Education at Harvard 15

Applications to Harvard and the ETH in Zurich. Interest in making compounds. Fellowship from Louis Fieser. Courses at Harvard. Comparison of Harvard and Queen's. Work on the Hooker Oxidation. Making diazomethane from MNNG. Friends and faculty at Harvard. Ph.D. degree. Showing work by Mary Fieser to be incorrect.

The Move to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. 23

Conditions at PPG. Noncatalytic transesterification of beta-keto esters. Preparation of conjugated unsaturated phenols for phenolic resins. Preparation of diphenolic acid. Reaction of diketene with acetone.

Early History of Aldrich Chemical Company 26

Decision to remain in Milwaukee when PPG moves to Pittsburgh. Full-time with Aldrich. Partnership with Jack Eisendrath. Financial support from Bill Kesselman. Gaining full control of the company. Du Pont order for suberic acid. Earlier formation of Aldrich. First catalogs and products.

Growth of Aldrich Chemical Company 30

Distribution of early catalogs. Addition of more compounds and early customers. Teaching afternoon Hebrew school. Competition from Eastman Kodak. Acquisition offer from J. T. Baker. Decision to go public. Stock offers. Company growth.

Merger with Sigma Chemical Company 35

Approach to Sigma. Relationship with Dan Broida. Benefits from merger. Importance of product analyses. Aldrich "Gold Label" products.

Art Collecting and Family Matters 37

Origins of art collecting. Paintings on catalog covers. Exhibits of paintings. First Wife. Marriage to Isabel. Sons. European trips. Comments on British research.

Notes 42

Index 44

  About the Interviewer

Arnold Thackray

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

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