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Frank R. Mayo

Frank R. Mayo

Courtesy of John D. Roberts, CHF Collections

  • Born: June 23, 1908, Chicago, Illinois
  • Died: October 30, 1987, Menlo Park, California

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0031
Interview Date: January 21, 1981
Location: SRI International, Stanford, California
Interviewer: Leon B. Gortler
No. of pages: 56
Minutes: 180

  Abstract of Interview

In this interview Dr. Frank Mayo first discusses his educational career as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Chicago. He then traces his professional career as a research chemist with DuPont, an instructor at the University of Chicago where his primary role was the supervision of Morris Kharasch's research group, a group leader at U.S. Rubber during and after World War II, a research associate at General Electric, and finally, a fellow at SRI International. He discusses his closest associates, explains his scientific work, and comments on the rise of free radical chemistry and the value of applying basic research to practical problems.


1929 B.S., Chemistry, University of Chicago
1931 Ph.D., Chemistry (mentor: Morris Kharasch), University of Chicago

  Professional Experience

University of Chicago

1931 - 1932 Lilly Fellow

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1933 - 1935 Research Chemist

University of Chicago

1936 - 1942 Instructor

U.S. Rubber Co.

1942 - 1950 Group Leader, Research Chemist

General Electric Research Laboratory

1950 - 1956 Research Associate

SRI International

1956 Scientific Fellow


1967 Award in Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family and Undergraduate Education 1

Parents (Frank and Clara Rea). Brother. Family finances. Early chemical influence. Scholarship to the University of Chicago. Other chemistry students. Courses. Offer to attend graduate school.

Graduate Education at the University of Chicago 6

Financial support. Advanced organic chemistry text. Research problem. Morris Kharasch, research director. Other graduate students.

Industrial position at DuPont 11

Research at DuPont. Paper on pyridine reduction.

Marriage 12

Children. Grandchildren.

Instructor at the University of Chicago 13

Research director for Kharasch. Salary at Du Pont and Chicago. Chairman at Chicago. Running the Kharasch group. Kharasch's relations with other chemists. Kharasch's students. James Senior. Frank Westheimer. George Wheland. Influential organic chemists and physical organic chemists. Journal of Organic Chemistry. Halogenation of toluene. Competitive nature of Kharasch. Chemical Reviews article with Walling. Courses taught. Ph.D. students and their research problems. Leaving Chicago.

U.S. Rubber 25

Location and description of laboratory. People in group. Research problems. Management support for basic research. Change in management attitude after World War II. Academic consultants. Chemical Reviews article on copolymerization with Walling.

Organic Mechanisms Conference 32

Change in Kharasch's research directors. Status of free radical polymerization mechanisms in 1930.

GE Research Laboratories 35

Structure. Coworkers. Oxidation of olefins. Silicones.

SRI International 36

Research. Financial support of research. Oxidation of polyolefins. Academic offers. Research on polymer aging. Basic research on practical problems. Contract arrangements with companies for basic research.

Transformation of Organic Chemistry 41

Kharasch contributions. Kharasch during and after World War II. Effect of World War II on organic chemistry and physical organic chemistry. Solvolysis studies.

Academic-Industrial Interface 45

Two major career breaks. Cheves Walling and his move from DuPont to U.S. Rubber. Kharasch's inability to place students in academic positions.

Notes 48

Index 51

  About the Interviewer

Leon B. Gortler

Leon Gortler is a professor of chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He holds A.B. and M.S. degrees from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Harvard University where he worked with Paul Bartlett. He has long been interested in the history of chemistry, in particular the development of physical organic chemistry, and has conducted over fifty oral and videotaped interviews with major American chemists.

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