New Search

Marion D. Francis

  • Born: May 9, 1923, Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0153
Interview Date: January 24, 1997
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 51
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Marion David Francis begins his interview with a discussion of his childhood in Canada. Deeply influenced by his industrious parents and siblings, Francis worked his way through high school and college at a logging camp. He received his B.A. in chemistry in 1946 and his M.A. in chemistry in 1949, both from the University of British Columbia. Francis married shortly after, and he and his wife moved to Iowa, where he continued his studies at the University of Iowa, obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1953. Francis accepted a position with Procter & Gamble in 1952. His first work there involved research on detergents and skin penetration. Procter & Gamble then moved Francis into hair research. Finally, Francis moved to the dental section, where he became involved with fluoride research. Using both human and bovine dental samples, Francis explored enamel resistance to calcium fluoride. He also proved in other lab tests on rats that fluoride had an anti-enzymatic effect on teeth, and that fluoride treatments helped protect rats' teeth from decay. Francis continued to do dental research on calculus and its safe removal from teeth without damaging the enamel. Speaking on scientific innovation, Francis touches on team effort and support, as well as management and research and development. Francis concludes the interview with a reflection on winning his scientific awards and final thoughts on his family.


1946 B.A., Chemistry, University of British Columbia
1949 M.A., Chemistry, University of British Columbia
1953 Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of Iowa

  Professional Experience

University of British Columbia

1946 - 1949 Instructor

Canadian Fishing Company

1946 - 1946 Chemist

University of Iowa

1949 - 1951 Research Assistant

University of Iowa

1951 - 1952 U.S. Public Health Fellow

Procter & Gamble Company

1952 - 1976 Research Chemist

Procter & Gamble Company

1976 - 1985 Senior Scientist

Procter & Gamble Company

1993 Consultant

Norwich Eaton Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

1985 - 1990 Senior Scientist

Victor Mills Society

1990 - 1993 Research Fellow


1977 Cincinnati Chemist of the Year Award, American Chemical Society, Cincinnati Section
1979 Professional Accomplishment Award in Industry, Technical and Scientific Societies Council of Cincinnati
1990 Technical Innovation Award, Victor Mills Society
1994 National Industrial Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
1996 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
1996 Morley Award and Medal, American Chemical Society, Cleveland Section

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years 1

Growing up in British Columbia. Relationship with brothers. Working through high school and college. Decision to major in chemistry. Bachelor's degree in chemistry.

Graduate School and Career Beginnings 6

Decision to attend the University of Iowa. Marriage. Influential professors. Ph.D. in biochemistry. Working as a research assistant at University of Iowa. Accepting a position with Procter & Gamble working in skin research.

Early Career at Procter & Gamble 12

Moving from skin research into hair research. Oxidation studies. Moving from hair research into the dental section. Colleagues in the department. First work on fluoride analysis on enamel. Thermodynamic testing. Enzyme studies on the effect of fluoride on teeth. Beginning work on calculus.

Scientific Studies at Procter & Gamble 19

Studying effect of EHDP (ethane hydroxy diphosphate) on crystal growth inhibition on enamel and bone. Beginning work on phosphonates. Studies on calcifications of mammalian systems. Treating a child with myositis ossificans progressiva. FDA approval of diphosphonates. Venturing into bone research.

Career Reflections 26

Working for Canadian Fishing Company. Scientific innovation. Teamwork and research at Procter & Gamble. Establishing medical group within Procter & Gamble. Developmental support. Future of research and development.

Final Thoughts 36

Winning Award in Chemical Industry and the Perkin Medal. Acknowledgement of staff technicians. Retirement. Family.

Notes 44

Index 46

  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.

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.