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David R. Bryant

  • Born: May 8, 1936, Greensboro, North Carolina

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0169
Interview Date: April 8, 1998
Location: South Charleston, West Virginia
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 57
Minutes: 221
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

David Bryant begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood. Bryant grew up in North Carolina as one of seven children. He began working at age ten, and held various jobs until he earned a scholarship to Wake Forest University. Influenced by his high school science teacher, Bryant double-majored in chemistry and math. While at Wake Forest, he became a lab assistant, and conducted some synthetic research. After receiving his B.S. in 1958, Bryant decided to attend graduate school at Duke University. Focusing on organic chemistry, he worked on the conversion of organic compounds into dianions under Charlie Hauser. Bryant earned his Ph.D. in 1961 and immediately took a job with Union Carbide Corporation. He worked on developing a method of producing vinyl acetate without halide, and later worked with benzyl acetate, acrylic acid, and rhodium triphenylphosphite in the Oxo process. In the 1970s, Bryant became involved in the scientific side of intellectual property disputes for Union Carbide. Bryant concludes the interview with comments on the nature of industrial research and development, the difficulties of government regulation, and his approaching retirement in 2000.


1958 B.S., Chemistry and Mathematics, Wake Forest University
1961 Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Duke University

  Professional Experience

Union Carbide Corporation

1961 - 1967 Senior Chemist

Union Carbide Corporation

1967 - 1975 Research Scientist

Union Carbide Corporation

1975 - 1979 Senior Research Scientist

Union Carbide Corporation

1984 - 1987 Corporate Fellow

Union Carbide Corporation

1987 - present Senior Corporate Fellow


1989 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1990 Honorary D.Sc., Wake Forest University
1992 Industrial Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
1993 Carothers Award
1998 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background and Early Years 1

Growing up in North Carolina. Siblings. Working at age ten. Influence of Arnold Bolen. Decision to pursue chemistry.

College Years 4

Scholarship to Wake Forest University. Double major in chemistry and math. Working as a lab assistant. Research without advanced instrumentation. Graduate school in organic chemistry at Duke University. National Science Foundation fellowship. Minor in physics. Dianion research.

Union Carbide 12

Recruitment. Decision to take job at Union Carbide. Assigned projects. Work on vinyl acetate process. Research on rhodium. Acrylic acid work. Selection as technical witness in lawsuit. Participation in intellectual property disputes.

Oxo Process 23

Importance to Union Carbide. Presentation of technology. Rhodium triphenylphosphine catalyst. Propylene hydroformylation. Phosphite chemistry.

Research and Development 30

Fundamental research in an industrial setting. Importance of continuing education. Strategies in experimentation. Scientific innovation. Emphasis on teamwork. Difficulties of regulation.

Conclusion 36

Retirement in 2000. Winning the Perkin Medal. Family.

Notes 44

Index 45

  About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

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