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William E. Hanford

  • Born: December 9, 1908, Bristol, Pennsylvania
  • Died: January 27, 1996, Bethesda, Maryland

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0139
Interview Date: March 15, 1995
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 43
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

William Hanford begins the interview with a discussion of the importance of teamwork and the influence of Roger Adams in his career. He then continues on to his family background and youth. His high school chemistry teacher and his uncle both encouraged his interest in the sciences. After graduating from Bristol High School, he attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, where he earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1930. Hanford then took a position as an analytical chemist at Rohm and Haas, but soon decided to attend graduate school. He accepted an offer from the University of Illinois, and studied with Roger Adams. He worked on various problems in the laboratory, and got to know many members of the department, including Carl Marvel, Reynold Fuson, and Ralph Shriner. After earning his Ph.D. in 1935, he took a job with DuPont, working in Experimental Station. He worked on producing isothiocyanate and polymerizing caprolactam. Hanford was also involved with Teflon, polyamides, and polyesters. In 1942, he moved to GAF, where he worked on Glim, the first liquid detergent. Hanford then moved to M.W. Kellogg Company in 1946. He helped to develop KEL-F and sold it to 3M before moving again to Olin Corporation in 1957. At Olin, he worked on Head and Shoulders, carpet backing, and plastic shotgun shells, among other products. Hanford concludes the interview with a discussion of teamwork, his family, his experience with urethane, and his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.


1930 B.S. Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science
1935 Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, University of Illinois

  Professional Experience

Rohm and Haas Company

1930 - 1931 Analytical Chemist

University of Illinois

1932 - 1935 Assistant Chemist

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1935 - 1936 Research Chemist

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1936 - 1942 Group Leader

General Aniline & Film Corporation (GAF)

1942 - 1946 Director of Research

M. W. Kellogg Company

1946 - 1947 Technical Consultant

M. W. Kellogg Company

1948 - 1950 Director, Petroleum and Chemical Research

M. W. Kellogg Company

1950 - 1957 Vice President, Director of Research, and Member of the Board of Directors

Olin Corporation

1957 - 1957 Assistant to the President

Olin Corporation

1957 - 1973 Vice President, Research and Development

World Water Resources, Inc.

1973 - 1985 Consultant


1955 Ambassador's Award, State of Pennsylvania
1957 Honor Scroll, American Institute of Chemists, New York Chapter
1961 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1967 Chemical Pioneers Award
1974 Gold Medal, American Institute of Chemists
1991 Inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Career 1

Experience at DuPont. Importance of teamwork. Influence of Roger Adams.

Family Background and Education 2

Parents. Growing up in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Financial situation. High school science. Encouragement of uncle. Decision to attend Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. First job at Rohm and Haas. Decision to pursue graduate studies.

Graduate School 5

Choosing the University of Illinois. Working with Roger Adams. Laboratory research. Interactions with Carl Marvel, Reynold Fuson, and Ralph Shriner. Language studies.

E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company 7

Working in Experimental Station. Isolthiocyanate. Becoming group leader. Polymerizing caprolactam. Polymerizing polyethylene. Teflon. Fluorochemistry. Polyesters and polyamides. Decision to leave.

General Aniline and Film Corporation 14

Becoming Director of Research. Administrative challenges. Developing Glim.

M.W. Kellogg Company 16

Synthol. Developing KEL-F. Relationship with Pullman Company. Selling KEL-F to 3M.

Olin Corporation 18

Moving to Olin Corporation. Influence of John M. Olin. Introducing Head and Shoulders. Work on plastic shotgun shells and spiral-wound lightweight shotgun. Composite metal coinage. Production of polyurethanes.

Conclusion 21

Importance of teamwork. Shift to administration. Winning the Chemical Industry Medal. Leaving Olin. Working with son in World Water Resources, Inc. Role of Nature. Relationship with Wallace Carothers and Julian Hill. Family. Induction into National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Notes 37

Index 38

  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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