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Herbert Morawetz

  • Born: October 16, 1915, Prague, Czechoslovakia

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0032
Interview Date: April 1, 1986
Location: Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, New York
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 44
Minutes: 150

  Abstract of Interview

In this interview, Herbert Morawetz traces his early life prior to leaving Czechoslovakia on the Nazi invasion and resettling in Canada, where he studied chemical engineering at the University of Toronto. He describes his introduction to industrial research work and his consequent Ph.D. study at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and late postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Morawetz outlines the circumstances of his appointment to the faculty at Brooklyn and his research and scholarly activities there. During the course of the interview Morawetz reflects on some of his graduate students, on the future of polymer education, and on international scientific collaboration.


1942 B.A.Sc., Chemical Engineering, University of Toronto
1943 M.A.Sc., Chemical Engineering, University of Toronto
1950 PH.D., Chemistry, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

  Professional Experience

Bakelite Co.

1945 - 1949 Research Chemist

Harvard Medical School

1950 - 1951 N.I.H. Fellow

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

1951 - 1953 Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

1953 - 1958 Associate Professor

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

1958 - 1981 Professor

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

1981 - 1986 Institute Professor

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

1986 Institute Professor Emeritus


1966 - 1967 N.I.H. Fellow, Universities of Naples and Rome
1980 Centennial Scholar, Case Western Reserve University
1984 Whitby Memorial Lecturer, University of Akron
1985 Polymer Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Family background, father's business interests. High school studies and training period in Northern Ireland. Escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

University Education in Canada 8

Undergraduate study of chemical engineering. Master's program.

Industrial Employment and Further Studies 11

Polymer research and development at Bakelite Company. Postgraduate study at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and Ph.D. research with Turner Alfrey. Postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Faculty Appointment at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute 18

Solid-state polymerization. Sabbatical leave at Weizmann Institute. Microtacticity. Publication of books, interest in history of polymer science. Boycott of Tashkent meeting. Graduate students, consultancy, and patents.

Notes 38

Index 40

  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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