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Vladimir Haensel

  • Born: September 1, 1914, Freiburg, Germany
  • Died: December 25, 2002

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0115
Interview Date: November 2, 1994
Location: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 57
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Vladimir Haensel begins this interview by discussing his family life. Haensel, though born in Germany, spent parts of his childhood in Russia, Austria, and Germany. He attended a German gymnasium, where he had only a few science courses. However, family friends encouraged his burgeoning interest in chemistry. When his father was offered a faculty position at Northwestern University, Haensel's family moved to the United States. Haensel studied engineering at Northwestern, receiving his B.S. in 1935. He earned a scholarship for graduate school at MIT, where he studied polymerization under Edwin R. Gilliland. With the help of a family friend, Vladimir Ipatieff, Haensel was offered a summer position at Universal Oil Products (UOP). After earning his M.S. in chemical engineering in 1937, Haensel took a permanent position at UOP, and helped Ipatieff to set up a high-pressure laboratory (funded by UOP) at Northwestern. During this time, Haensel also earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern, writing a thesis on the decomposition of cyclohexane. In the 1940s and 1950s, Haensel moved into research management. He was also integral in UOP's development of the Platforming process. Haensel concludes this interview with a discussion of the importance of instinct in research, the future of research and development, and his thoughts on winning the Perkin Medal.


1935 B.S., General Engineering, Northwestern University
1937 M.S., Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1942 Ph.D., Chemistry, Northwestern University

  Professional Experience

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1937 - 1937 Chemical Engineer

Ipatieff High Pressure Laboratory

1939 - 1939 Research Assistant

Petroleum Administration for War

1945 - 1945 Inspector, German Synthetic Oil Plants, Technical Oil Mission

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1942 - 1945 Chemical Engineer

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1945 - 1945 Coordinator, Cracking Research Division

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1951 - 1951 Director of Refining Research

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1960 - 1960 Director of Process Research

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1964 - 1972 Vice President and Director of Research

Universal Oil Products Company (UOP)

1972 - 1979 Vice President, Science and Technology

University of Massachusetts Amherst

1980 Professor of Chemical Engineering


1944 Chicago Junior Chamber of Commerce Award
1952 Precision Scientific Company Award in Petroleum Chemistry
1957 Professional Progress Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1965 Modern Pioneers in Creative Industry Award, National Association of Manufacturers
1967 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1967 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1971 Member, National Academy of Sciences
1973 National Medal of Science
1974 Member, National Academy of Engineering
1977 Eugene J. Houdry Award in Applied Catalysis
1984 Chancellor's Medal, University of Massachusetts
1991 Award for Chemistry in Service to Society, National Academy of Sciences
1993 Henry J. Albert Award, International Precious Metal Institute
1994 Chancellor's Outstanding Teacher Award, University of Massachusetts
1997 Charles Stark Draper Prize, National Academy of Engineering

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Growing up in Russia, Germany, Austria, and the United States. Effect of World War I. Growing interest in chemistry due to family friends.

College Education 5

Engineering at Northwestern University. Graduate school at MIT. Studying polymerization with Edwin R. Gilliland. Summer job at Universal Oil Products. Influence of Vladimir Ipatieff.

Career at Universal Oil Products 8

Working for Ipatieff. Setting up high-pressure laboratory at Northwestern. Ph.D. thesis on decomposition of cyclohexane. Development of the Platforming process.

Research and Development 35

Importance of instinct. Experiences in research management. Corporate support for R&D. Cooperation between chemists and chemical engineers. Importance of reading. Future of R&D.

Conclusion 46

Thoughts on winning the Perkin Medal.

Notes 49

Index 51

  About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and has presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was the foundation’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

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