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Delbert H. Meyer

  • Born: August 28, 1926, Maynard, Iowa

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0151
Interview Date: January 20, 1997
Location: Naperville, Illinois
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 30
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Delbert Meyer begins his oral history with a description of his family life as a youth in Maynard, Iowa. He was uncertain of his future career choice and served for two years in the U.S. Navy. Influential professors at Wartburg College and later at the University of Iowa fueled his interest in chemistry. Meyer spent thirty-nine years with Amoco, beginning as an exploratory researcher for Standard Oil Company in 1953 and, later, becoming a research consultant at Amoco in 1992. During his career at Amoco Corporation, Meyer developed a faster and more economical method for producing purified terephthalic acid (PTA), the major material used to make polyester. He eventually moved into research management and product development. Meyer concluded with a discussion scientific innovation as a result of need for products in the marketplace, speculation on the future of research and development management in the chemical sciences, and reflections on winning the 1995 Perkin Medal.

  Education

1949 B.A., Chemistry, Wartburg College
1953 Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Iowa

  Professional Experience

Amoco Corporation

1953 - 1961 Research Chemist, Standard Oil Company, Whiting, Indiana

Amoco Corporation

1961 - 1967 Research Chemist, Amoco Chemical Company, Whiting, Indiana

Amoco Corporation

1967 - 1977 Research Supervisor, Naperville, Illinois

Amoco Corporation

1977 - 1989 Director, Exploratory Research Division, Naperville, Illinois

Amoco Corporation

1989 - 1992 Research Consultant, Naperville, Illinois

Amoco Corporation

1992 Retired

  Honors

1983 Alumni Citation Award, Wartburg College
1989 William M. Burton Award, Amoco Chemical Company
1992 U.S. Medal of Technology
1993 Honorary D.Sc., Wartburg College
1995 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background and Early Education 1

Parents' farm in Maynard, Iowa. High school years.

College Education and Early Career 4

Difficulty finding a job in chemical field after receiving Bachelor's Degree. Marriage. Graduate school at the University of Iowa. Search for work in industrial field.

Standard Oil 6

Beginnings in exploratory research. Work on aromatic carboxylic acids. Research and development. Initial work on terephthalic acid.

Career at Amoco Chemical Corporation 8

Development of Amoco process for making dimethyl terephthalate (DMT). Amoco's beginnings in polyester feedstock. Development of process for purifying terephthalic acid (TA).

PTA Production 11

Refinement of PTA (purified terephthalic acid) process. Process patent. Development of commercially acceptable way to produce PTA. First commercial PTA plant. Development strategies.

Management, Development, and Marketing 15

Managing PTA technical service group. Customer working relationships. Product development. Process to make paramethyl styrene. William M. Burton Award. National Medal of Technology. Taking risks to succeed in the marketplace.

Retirement and Final Thoughts 20

Views on the future of research and development. Thoughts on new technological breakthroughs. Retirement. Winning Perkin Medal.

Notes 26

Index 27

  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.

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