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Herbert S. Eleuterio

  • Born: November 23, 1927, New Bedford, Massachusetts

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0192
Interview Date: February 25, 2000
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 43

  Abstract of Interview

Herbert Eleuterio was born in 1927 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His parents had emigrated from the Azores, and he spoke no English until he began first grade. His interest in science was sparked by a middle-school biology teacher, and he decided to pursue chemistry after a customer on his paper route gave him a book on organic chemistry. He attended Tufts University, where he was positively influenced by his calculus teacher. He nearly went to graduate school for math, but the dim employment prospects for mathematicians led him to choose chemistry instead. Eleuterio received his Ph.D. from Michigan State, and married shortly after. He spent a year as a post-doc at Ohio State, then took a job at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. He was assigned polymer work even though he had no formal polymer background, and he was immediately very successful. His work there included propylene polymerization, olefin catalysis, olefin metathesis, and fluoro polymers, especially high-performance lubricants such as hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO). Eleuterio also became interested in the theory and practice of knowledge creation and knowledge management through his work in exploratory chemistry at DuPont. He spent much of his later career discussing his concept of "degrees of freedom" and its relationship to scientific creativity. He was also a major proponent of creative teamwork in the laboratory. During his tenure with the Atomic Energy Division, which functioned mostly in South Carolina, he helped to create the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina in Aiken. Eleuterio's final project at DuPont was globalizing corporate R&D. After his retirement from DuPont in 1992, he began teaching part of every year at the National University of Singapore in the engineering and business programs. He also started the Process Analysis and Optimization Enterprise, which evolved into the Center for Process Engineering, in order to build links between industry and academia in Singapore. Eleuterio concludes the interview with a discussion of his family.


1949 B.S., Chemistry, Tufts University
1953 Ph.D., Chemistry, Michigan State University

  Professional Experience

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1954 - 1959 Research Chemistry, Polychemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1959 - 1963 Research Manager, Industrial and Biochemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1963 - 1968 Division Head, Experimental Station, Explosives Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1972 - 1973 Director, Experimental Station, Explosives Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1973 - 1976 Assistant Research Director, Polymer Intermediates

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1976 - 1977 Production Manager, Nylon Intermediates, Petrochemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1977 - 1985 Director, Research & Development Division, Petrochemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1985 - 1989 Technical Director, Atomic Energy Division, Petrochemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1989 - 1992 Director, New Technology Studies

National University of Singapore

1993 - Present Visiting Professor


1987 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1991 Technical Excellence Award, DuPont Fellows Pederson Award
1995 Carothers Award, American Chemical Society
1995 Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement
1995 Singapore's NSTB Medal

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Growing up in Massachusetts. Parents and cultural background. Early education. Choice of undergraduate college.

Higher Education 3

Undergraduate education at Tufts University. Important influences. Graduate school at Michigan State. Marriage. Starting a family. Post-doc at Ohio State.Looking for employment in industry.

Early Career 8

Achievements in chemistry. Research interests. Joining DuPont. Ziegler catalysis. Study of scientific creativity. Interest in chemical models. Polyhexafluoropropylene. HFPO.

Later Career 22

Knowledge management. Creation of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Globalizing DuPont's corporate R&D. Teaching at the National University of Singapore. Environmental concern. Role of future chemists.

Conclusion 30

Family. Final thoughts.

Notes 35

Index 37

  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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