New Search

Claude K. Deischer

Claude K. Deischer

CHF Collections

  • Born: October 14, 1903, Emmaus, Pennsylvania
  • Died: March 23, 1992

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0001
Interview Date: April 27, 1984
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Interviewer: John A. Heitmann
No. of pages: 33
Minutes: 115

  Abstract of Interview

In this interview, Claude K. Deischer discusses his life and his career as a chemist and historian of chemistry. Initially, Deischer recollects his childhood and early education. He then speaks about his undergraduate education at Kutztown State and Muhlenberg and his graduate and postgraduate research at the University of Pennsylvania. A discussion of his early teaching at Penn, his initial interest in the history of science, and the Smith Collection follows. Deischer then appraises his scholarly activities during and after World War II and his department and students. The interview concludes with Deischer considering the part that he played in starting Chymia, and his contributions to the American Chemical Society and the Moravian Church.


1925 B.S., Chemistry, Muhlenberg College
1928 M.S., Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania
1933 Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania

  Professional Experience

Public School

1921 - 1927 Teacher

University of Pennsylvania

1928 - 1971 Instructor to Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

University of Pennsylvania

1952 - 1965 Assistant to Chairman, Department of Chemistry

University of Pennsylvania

1955 - 1971 Acting Curator, E. F. Smith Memorial Library

University of Pennsylvania

1971 - present Emeritus Professor

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family and Childhood 1

Early years in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. The Moravian church. High school science. A summer job at the foundry. Teaching in a one-room school. Training at a teachers' college.

Undergraduate Education 3

Muhlenberg College. Scientific learning deepens. Additional experience in the laboratory. Chemical training at Lehigh.

Graduate Education at the University of Pennsylvania 5

Meeting with Edgar Fahs Smith. The chemistry faculty at Penn. A teaching job at Penn. The analytical chemistry course.

Postgraduate Research 8

Work with mercury. The gravimetric determination of the atomic weight of mercury. A discussion about apparatus.

Colleagues and Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania 9

Wallace McNabb. Ralph Connor. Philip George. Harry Alsentzer. Ernest Wagner. Initial interest in and early teaching of history of chemistry.

The Smith Collection 11

Mrs. Smith donates the collection to Penn. The background and contributions of Eva Armstrong. The collection is moved to the Van Pelt Building.

Activities during World War II 12

The teaching of analytical chemistry to army andnavy personnel. Rationale for publishing papers in the history of science. Colleagues in the history of chemistry. 

Postwar Research, Teaching, and Administration 16

Revitalization of Penn's chemistry department. Service as assistant chairman and member of various committees. Inadequate laboratory apparatus. Research interests of graduate students.

Association with Chymia 18

Henry Leicester's efforts. Early difficulties getting Chymia established. Some articles. Changes under Russell McCormmach.

Involvement with the American Chemical Society 20

Work with the national and regional sections. The diamond and centennial celebrations.

Activities during Retirement 22

Work with the Penn Chemists' Fund and The Catalyst. Continued involvement with the Moravian church.

Index 25

  About the Interviewer

John A. Heitmann

John A. Heitmann holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Davidson College and an M.A. degree in history from Clemson University. From 1971 to 1977, he worked as a chemist in the metallurgical industry. He then studied at the Johns Hopkins University under Owen Hannaway and received his doctorate in the history of science in 1983.

Hear It Firsthand

The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.