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Paul M. Cook

  • Born: April 25, 1924, Ridgewood, New Jersey

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0105
Interview Date: April 2, 1992
Location: San Carlos, California
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 39
Minutes: 129
Sponsor: Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation
Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

Paul Cook begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and childhood. When Cook was young, he took an interest in chemistry, developing a laboratory in the basement of his parents' house. After graduating from high school in 1941, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he studied chemical engineering with Warren K. Lewis. In 1943, after enlisting in the Army, he went to basic infantry training. Cook then enrolled in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), through which he attended Stanford University for two terms, studying mechanical engineering. After a year, Cook was sent to the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation, and then to Fort Benning, where he became an MP. While at Fort Benning, he joined the Officer Candidate School, and shortly after completing the training, was sent to fight in Italy. In February 1946, Cook left the Army and worked for Submarine Signal in Boston. He then returned to MIT, where he completed his degree in 1947. After graduation, Cook started the Warren Wire Company with his older brother. A year later, Cook left the fledgling company to join the Stanford Research Institute as a chemical engineer. There he worked on a number of projects, including the growth of the algae Chlorella and the potential uses of waste fission products. In 1951, Cook founded the Sequoia Process Corporation. Five years later, he left Sequoia to found Raychem Corporation, which opened in 1957. Cook concludes the interview with a discussion of Raychem's international competition, the growth of the company, his thoughts on managing innovation, and the possibilities of radiation technology.


1947 B.S., Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  Professional Experience

Warren Wire Company

1947 - 1948 President

Stanford Research Institute

1949 - 1952 Chemical Engineer

Stanford Research Institute

1952 - 1954 Head, Radiation Chemistry Laboratory

Sequoia Process Corporation

1953 - 1956 President

Raychem Corporation

1957 - 1991 Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board

Cell Net Data Systems

1991 - 1995 CEO

Cell Net Data Systems

1991 Chairman of the Board

SRI International

1994 - present Chairman of the Board

Sarnoff Corporation

1995 - present Chairman of the Board

Diva Systems Corporation

1995 - present Founder, Chairman of the Board, and CEO


1985 Member, National Academy of Engineering
1986 Winthrop Sears Medal, Chemical Industry Association
1988 National Medal of Technology
1989 Golden Omega Award, Electrical/Electronics Insulation Award
1990 Member, American Academy of Sciences

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background 1

Growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Father's company, Cornish Wire Company. Siblings. Mother's support. Interest in chemistry. Basement laboratory. High-school sports. Effect of Depression. Influence of teachers. Decision to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

College and the Army 4

Studying chemical engineering at MIT. Influence of Warren K. Lewis. Decision to enlist in the Army. Basic infantry training. Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Studying mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Becoming an MP at Fort Benning. Officer Candidate School infantry training program. Fighting in Italy. Leadership experience. Getting married. Leaving the Army. Working for Submarine Signal. Returning to MIT. Working with Edwin R. Gilliland.

Warren Wire Company 9

Starting a business. Working with brother. Technology of enameled magnet wire. Decision to leave company.

Stanford Research Institute 10

Working as a chemical engineer. Fluidization of sawdust. Carnegie Institution of Washington facility. Developing continuous process for growing Chlorella. Study sponsored by Atomic Energy Commission. Potential uses of waste fission products. Establishing Radiation Engineering Laboratory.

Sequoia Wire Company 13

Founding company. Making electronic hook-up wire. Conflict with shareholder. Decision to leave company.

Raychem Corporation 15

Industrial applications of high-energy ionizing radiation. Initial technical problems. Development of original products. Japanese competition. International expansion. Hiring techniques. Encouraging innovation. Finding market opportunities. Technology.

Conclusion 25

Other applications of ionizing radiation. Irradiating on a large scale.

Notes 28

Index 29

  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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