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Norman Hackerman

Norman Hackerman

CHF Collections, Photograph by Douglas A. Lockard

  • Born: March 2, 1912, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Died: June 16, 2007, Temple, Texas

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0237
Interview Date: March 12, 2002
Location: Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Interviewers: Arthur Daemmrich and Arnold Thackray
No. of pages: 32
Sponsor: Gordon Research Conferences
Gordon Research Conferences

  Abstract of Interview

Norman Hackerman begins the interview with a description of his graduate education at Johns Hopkins University and his encounters with Neil E. Gordon. After graduating from Johns Hopkins with a Ph.D. in chemistry, Hackerman became a steady participant of the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC)—particularly the Corrosion Conference, which he chaired in 1950. Hackerman recalls that the early conferences were helpful to his scientific research, and that the atmosphere was informal and interactive. He also explains that as the numbers of attendees, disciplines, and locations of the conferences increased, the conference atmosphere became a more formal, lecture-type setting. Hackerman discusses some of the activities of the GRC board of trustees, on which he served as a member from 1970 to 1973. From attendee to conference chairman to trustee, Hackerman watched GRC evolve into an international organization that brings together thousands of individuals from academe, government, and industry. Hackerman concludes the interview by commenting on the important role that GRC plays in public education and public understanding of science.


1932 A.B., Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University
1935 Ph.D., Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University

  Professional Experience

Loyola College

1935 - 1939 Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Colloid Corporation

1936 - 1940 Research Chemist

United States Coast Guard

1939 - 1941 Assistant Chemist

Virginia Polytechnic Institute

1941 - 1943 Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Kellex Corporation

1944 - 1945 Research Chemist

University of Texas at Austin

1945 - 1946 Assistant Professor of Chemistry

University of Texas at Austin

1946 - 1950 Associate Professor of Chemistry

University of Texas at Austin

1948 - 1961 Director, Corrosion Research Laboratory

University of Texas at Austin

1950 - 1970 Professor of Chemistry

University of Texas at Austin

1952 - 1961 Chairman, Chemistry Department

University of Texas at Austin

1960 - 1961 Dean of Research and Sponsored Programs

University of Texas at Austin

1961 - 1963 Vice President and Provost

University of Texas at Austin

1963 - 1967 Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

University of Texas at Austin

1967 - 1970 President

University of Texas at Austin

1985 Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Rice University

1970 - 1985 President and Professor of Chemistry

Rice University

1985 President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

The Robert A. Welch Foundation

1982 Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board


1956 Whitney Award, National Association of Corrosion Engineers
1964 Joseph L. Mattiello Award
1965 Palladium Medal, The Electrochemical Society
1965 Southwest Regional Award, American Chemical Society
1972 LL.D., St. Edwards University
1975 D.Sc., Austin College
1975 Honor Scroll, Texas Institute of Chemists
1978 D.Sc., Texas Christian University
1978 LL.D., Abilene Christian University
1978 Gold Medal, American Institute of Chemists
1981 Mirabeau B. Lamar Award, Association of Texas Colleges and Universities
1982 Distinguished Alumnus Award, Johns Hopkins University
1984 Edward Goodrich Acheson Award, The Electrochemical Society
1984 Alumni Gold Medal for Distinguished Service, Rice University
1987 Charles Lathrop Parsons Award
1987 Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1993 Vannevar Bush Award, National Science Board
1993 Doctor of Public Service, University of North Texas
1993 National Medal of Science
1999 Texas Distinguished Scientist Award, Texas Academy of Science

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Reflections on Neil E. Gordon 1

Interactions at Johns Hopkins University. Early days of the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC). Gordon's interest in chemical education and his involvement with the Samuel C. Hooker Scientific Library. Fund-raising for GRC.

Gordon Research Conferences 4

Format and attendees at the Gibson Island Conferences. Moving the conferences to New England. Chairing the 1950 Corrosion Conference. Interactions at early Corrosion Conferences. Selecting speakers and chairmen. Serving on the board of trustees. Industry participation and financial difficulties. Evolution of the conferences.

Changing Role of Industrial Involvement 12

Reduction of industrial in-house research. Diminishing industrial participation in GRC. Industry's relationship with academe. Resolving financial problems at GRC.

Impact of the Conferences on Research 18

New methods in electrochemistry. Knowledge transfer through publications. New conference format. Changes in scientific peer review. Rules and traditions of the conferences. Chemical Education Research and Practice Conference. Conferences in California.

Contemporary GRC 24

"Gordon Research Conferences; 50 Years in New Hampshire" publication. Start of conferences in Europe. GRC's role in public education and public understanding of science.

Notes 28

Index 30

  About the Interviewer

Arthur Daemmrich

Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.

Arnold Thackray

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

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