New Search

Roy G. Neville

  • Born: October 15, 1926, Bournemouth, Dorset, U.K.
  • Died: November 26, 2007, Pebble Beach, California

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0317
Interview Dates: June 20, 2005 and June 21, 2005
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 120
Sponsor: Bolton Society
Bolton Society

  Abstract of Interview

Roy G. Neville begins the interview by tracing his family history back to the year 700. He discusses his immediate family and his childhood in Bournemouth, England. Neville admits that he was not very impressed with his first chemistry lesson, but was intrigued by doing chemistry experiments in his makeshift home laboratory. He excelled academically and was accepted at Balliol College, University of Oxford. However, Neville was drafted into an industry of "national importance" and was unable to attend Balliol. After a brief stint at Signals Research and Development Establishment, Neville met Professor Neil Kensington Adam, who allowed him to attended the University College Southampton part-time. Neville continued to excel and was invited to do graduate research in the U.S. at the University of Oregon. While at Oregon, Neville received his master's degree and Ph.D. and met his future wife, Jeanne.

Neville goes on to describe his employment at various companies and the problem of being a chemist in industry. To combat this problem, he established Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. Being an entrepreneur allowed Neville to spend more of his time and money on collecting rare books. He details the start and growth of his rare book collection and his near decision to sell the collection in 1965. He discusses his competitors, how he obtained many of his rare treasures, and the start of The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Finally, Neville concludes the interviews with reflections of his childhood in Bournemouth during the start of World War II.


1951 B.Sc. honours University of London
1952 M.Sc. University of Oregon
1954 Ph.D., Physical Organic Chemistry, University of Oregon

  Professional Experience

Monsanto Chemical Company

1955 - 1957 Senior Research Chemist

Boeing Airplane Company

1957 - 1958 Senior Chemical Engineer

Lockheed Missiles & Space Company

1958 - 1961 Research Scientist

Aerospace Corporation

1961 - 1963 Member, Technical Staff and Polymer Chemist

North American Aviation, Inc.

1963 - 1967 Principal Scientist

Boeing Science Research Labs

1967 - 1969 Head, Polymer Research Lab

Bechtel Corporation

1969 - 1973 Senior Scientist Specialist, Science Development Department

Engineering & Technical Consultants, Inc.

1973 - Present President and Consultant


1951 Fulbright Scholarship
1951 - 1952 Fellow, U.S. Public Health Service
1953 - 1954 Fellow, Research Corporation
1963 Fellow, Royal Institute of Chemistry, London
1973 D.Sc. (hon.), Royal Institute of Chemistry, London
2004 Founding of the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at the Chemical Heritage Foundation
2004 Lifetime Achievement Award, Chemical Heritage Foundation
2004 Establishment of the Roy G. Neville Fellowship, Chemical Heritage Foundation
2006 Establishment of the Roy G. Neville Prize in Bibliography or Biography, Chemical Heritage Foundation

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Education 1

Family history. Problematic birth. Pyloric stenosis. Experiences at Winton and Moordown School in Bournemouth. First chemistry lesson. Using his home chemistry lab to make a bomb. Academic prowess. Acceptance into Balliol College, University of Oxford and the start of World War II. An industry of national importance. Signals Research and Development Establishment. Professor Neil Kensington Adam. University College Southampton. Work at the British Gas Board. Kenneth Edward Hayes and Professor Robert B. Dean.

Graduate Research at the University of Oregon 11

Traveling to the United States. The language barrier. Eugene, Oregon and the Deans. Master's degree. Biochemistry and meeting the future Mrs. Neville. Courtship and marriage of Jeanne and Roy. George Gorin and coordination compounds. Ph.D. work.

Early Employment 23

American-Marietta Company. Peter Gordon Howe. Monsanto Chemical Company. Becoming a U.S. citizen. Entrepreneurial work with Joe Majnarich. Boeing Airplane Company. Lockheed Missiles & Space Company. Money issues. Aerospace Corporation. Tom Dudek. Sol Skolnik. Marion Thomas O'Shaughnessy. North American Aviation Inc. HC3. Bechtel Corporation.

Life as a Consultant 35

Work with Krebs Engineers. Founding of Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. Homestake Mining Company. Kerr Magee Corporation. Investing in Montana 8, Texas 9, and Texas 10.

Health Problems 42

Chest pains during a trip to Bournemouth. Baby aspirin and an operation. Angioplasty. Having a quintuple bypass. Diagnosed with Paget's disease and prostate cancer. An important call to Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts from his hospital bed.

The Rare Book Collector 50

Start of collection. Book Collecting as a Hobby in a Series of Letters to Everyman. Elsevier Press. Robert Boyle. Jeanne's interest in and support of collecting. The Sceptical Chymist. Decision to sell collection in 1965. Dealing with rare book dealers. Franz Sondheimer. Macquer's Dictionnaire de Chymie. William A. Cole. Sondheimer's visit to Neville's private library. Arnold Thackray. Sondheimer's suicide. Competition with other rare book collectors. Denis Duveen.

The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library 70

Cataloguing the collection. Growth rate of collection. Linda Hall Library. Selling the collection to the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Gordon E. Moore.

Conclusion 87

Interest in engravings and art. Alchemical paintings. Daughters, Laura and Janet. Reflections of childhood experiences in Bournemouth during World War II.

Notes 98

Index 105

  About the Interviewers

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.

Hear It Firsthand

The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.