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Orlando A. Battista

O.A. Battista

Detail of Image, CHF Collections

  • Born: June 20, 1917, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
  • Died: February 15, 2000

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0103
Interview Date: February 23, 1992
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 70
Minutes: 197

  Abstract of Interview

O. A. Battista begins the interview by describing his childhood in Cornwall, Canada, as one of eight siblings born to a poor, uneducated laborer and a housewife. Battista proudly details his family's hard-working nature and the many professional accomplishments of his brothers, who include a chemist and company president and a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Attending McGill University along with his younger brother, Battista earned a B.S. in chemistry while supporting his household by writing epigrams for the Saturday Evening Post. Upon graduation Battista obtained a research chemist position at American Viscose Corporation, which was owned by Courtaulds, Canada, where his brother was well established and later became president. He worked on the rubber program and other war-related projects until the end of the war, when he married Helen Keffer and began inventing successful commercial products. Later, his work at American Viscose and its predecessor FMC earned him over sixty-five patents, including patents on viscose molding, novel yarn, pure cellulose, and microcrystalline collagen. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Battista wrote and published several works, including technical scientific texts, popular magazine articles on chemistry, a "human interest" chemistry text, an examination of the potential of psychopharmaceuticals, and several popular non-scientific collections. In the early 1960s, Battista realized the medical applications of microcrystalline collagen and obtained pharmaceutical backing from Alcon to license the substance as the patented hemostat Avitene. American Viscose and Alcon formed Avicon, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, and appointed Battista vice president for science and technology; Avicon obtained FDA approval for Avitene Hemostat, which today is used worldwide in hospital operating rooms. In 1974 Battista took early retirement from Avicon to start his own research institute and promote an Olympiad of Science that encourages and facilitates new product innovations. His institute created over fifty-five new products and publishes Knowledge Magazine.

  Education

1940 B.Sc. (first class honors), Chemistry, McGill University

  Professional Experience

American Viscose Corporation

1940 - 1963

Research Chemist; Senior Research Chemist; Manager of Corporate Applied Research

American Viscose Corporation

1961 - 1963 Assistant Director of Corporate Research

FMC Corporation

1963 - 1970 Assistant Director, Central Research

Avicon, Inc

1971 - 1974 Vice President, Science and Technology

The O. A. Battista Research Institute

1974 Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Research Services Corporation

1974 Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

University of Texas at Arlington

1975 - 1976 Adjunct Professor of Chemistry and Director, Center for Microcrystal Polymer Science

World Olympiads of Knowledge

1976 Founder and President

American Institute of Chemists

1977 - 1979 President

Fastcrete Corporation

1984 President and Chief Executive Officer

Avacare, Incorporated

1985 Director

Knowledge, Inc.

1986 Chairman, President, and Founder

Carrington Laboratories

1987 Director

  Honors

1955 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, St. Vincent College
1955 Fellow, National Association of Science Writers
1965 Honor Scroll Award, New Jersey Chapter, American Institute of Chemists
1967 Honor Scroll Award, Philadelphia Chapter, American Institute of Chemists
1969 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1969 Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences
1971 Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement
1972 Boss of the Year, National Secretaries Association
1973 James T. Grady Award, American Chemical Society
1977 - 1979 President and Chief Executive Officer, American Institute of Chemists
1981 Lifetime Fellow, National Association of Science Writers
1983 Creative Invention Medal, American Chemical Society
1984 Special Mention, Rolex Awards for Enterprise
1985 Anselme Payen Medal, American Chemical Society
1985 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Clarkson University
1986 Napoleon Hill Gold Medal for Creative Achievement
1987 Applied Polymer Science Medal, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background 1

Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, seventh of eight siblings. Parents had immigrated from Italy. Family values, hard work and education. Childhood jobs, effects of Depression on family.

Early Education and Family Learning Environment 4

Catholic elementary school, Cornwall Collegiate Institute (high school). Influence of high school teachers. Brothers' professional successes. Influence of brothers' interest in science. Childhood writing and inventions.

McGill University 11

Writing epigrams for Saturday Evening Post. Influence of Professors. Development of Infinitron Theory. Chemistry courses, lab work, honors courses. Lab assistantship at Pulp and Paper Institute.

American Viscose 17

Position at American Viscose in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Impressions of Philadelphia area. Wife. First assignments in war-related projects. Cellulose chemistry work, early patents, first papers. Invention of microcrystalline cellulose; opposition to his novel ideas. FMC buyout of American Viscose; closing of Marcus Hook plant.

FMC Corporation 27

Transfer to Central Research Department, Princeton, New Jersey, and assistant director appointment. Non-scientific books for Prentice-Hall and books on polymers, general chemistry, and mental drugs. Development of Avitene Microcrystalline Collagen for use as hemostat. Creation of Avicon by FMC and Alcon to develop and market Avitene.

Avicon 39

Move to Fort Worth, Texas, and appointment as vice president for science and technology. Clinical work on Avitene to meet FDA requirements. ACS Grady Award for writing. Promotion of competitive Olympiads of Science at ACS awards and after; support from H. Urey, H. Mark, and W. C. Stone. Knowledge Magazine. Decision to take early retirement.

O. A. Battista Research Institute 46

Prototype for Olympiads of Science Institutes. Consulting projects, staff. New products with commercial value; trademarks.

Outside Interests 49

American Institute of Chemists. Songwriting and ASCAP membership. Olympiads of Knowledge. Views of chemistry, creativity, innovation, and organizational politics.

Notes 55

Index 57

  About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and has presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was the foundation’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

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