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Philip E. Eaton

  • Born: June 2, 1936, Brooklyn, New York

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0152
Interview Date: January 22, 1997
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 47
Sponsor: Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation
Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

Philip Eaton begins the interview with a description of his childhood, parents, and early education in Brooklyn, New York. At age seven, Eaton and his family relocated to Budd Lake, New Jersey, where he attended Roxbury Grammar School and later Roxbury High School. Eaton displayed a great interest in science during his high-school years, and his parents' and teachers' encouragement strengthened his desire to major in chemistry. He attended Princeton University, receiving his B.A. in 1957. After graduating from Princeton, Eaton attended Harvard University for both his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. While at Princeton and Harvard, Eaton worked during the summers at Allied Chemical, where his group leader, Everett Gilbert, had a profound effect on his career. There, he first became involved with cage chemistry, specifically Kepone. In his final years as a graduate student at Harvard, Eaton accepted a postdoctoral assistant professorship at the University of California, Berkeley. There he taught introductory organic chemistry with Melvin Calvin. In 1962, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, where he remains a professor today. Shortly after his arrival at Chicago, Eaton began researching chlorocarbon compounds, which led him to cubane synthesis. With the assistance of his postdocs, Eaton synthesized on several other cubane-based compounds. Other projects included photochemistry work and dodecahedrane synthesis. Eaton's students praised his teaching methods and his dedication to excellence in education. His research accomplishments have earned him several awards, including the Humboldt Award and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. Eaton concludes the interview with a discussion on the future or scientific research, maintaining excellence in chemistry education and research, and thoughts on his wife, Phyllis.


1957 B.A., Chemistry, Princeton University
1960 M.A., Chemistry, Harvard University
1961 Ph.D., Chemistry, Harvard University

  Professional Experience

University of California, Berkeley

1960 - 1962 Assistant Professor

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

1963 - 1969 Research Fellow

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1965 - 1977 Consultant

National Institutes of Health

1968 - 1972 Consultant

University of Chicago

1962 - 1965 Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

University of Chicago

1965 - 1972 Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

University of Chicago

1972 - Present Professor, Department of Chemistry

Eaton Associates

1983 - Present President

Dow Chemical Company

1983 - 1989 Consultant

United States Army

1984 - Present Consultant, ARDEC

Enichem Synthesis

1985 - 1994 Consultant

SRI International

1986 - 1991 Consultant

Geo-Centers, Inc.

1988 - Present Consultant

Displaytech Corporation

1990 - 1991 Consultant

Steroids, Ltd.

1992 - 1995 Consultant

DAS Group, Inc.

1996 - 1997 Consultant

Fluorochem, Inc.

1986 - 1991 Consultant

Fluorochem, Inc.

1996 - Present Consultant

Eastman Chemical

1998 - Present Consultant


1963 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow
1975 Research Award, Rohm and Haas Company
1985 Alexander von Humboldt Prize
1995 Alan Berman Research Publication Award, Naval Research Laboratory, U.S. Navy
1997 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years 1

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and Budd Lake, New Jersey. Early interest in science. Encouragement of teachers and parents. Decision to attend Princeton.

College and Graduate Education 4

Research work at Princeton. Kepone. Working with Peter Yates. NMR work. Working at Allied Chemical. Attending graduate school at Harvard. Assistant professorship at University of California, Berkeley. Teaching with Melvin Calvin.

University of Chicago 11

Leaving University of California for the University of Chicago. Michael J.S. Dewar. Quadrupole spectroscopy. Cage compounds. Cubane research and synthesis. Thomas W. Cole, Jr.

Synthetic Chemistry Research 24

Propellane molecules. Ph.D. and postdoc assistants. Dodecahedrane. Horst Prinzbach and Leo Paquette syntheses.

Chemistry Education 28

Interaction with students. Research excellence. Education opportunities outside of the classroom. Setting high standards. Teaching methods. Winning Humboldt Award. Research funding.

Conclusion 34

Future of chemical discoveries. Research and development costs and support. Phyllis Eaton. Good science versus bad science.

Notes 42

Index 43

  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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