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James Burton Nichols

James Burton Nichols

CHF Collections, Photograph by Ray Ferguson

  • Born: February 25, 1902, Danbury, Connecticut
  • Died: July 14, 1995

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0034
Interview Dates: January 14, 1986 and January 16, 1986
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Interviewer: Raymond C. Ferguson
No. of pages: 83
Minutes: 180

  Abstract of Interview

Born in Danbury, Connecticut, Burton Nichols was only a few months old when his father died. His mother then found employment in the local industry so as to support Nichols and his sister. Encouraged by the high school superintendent, Nichols won scholarships to help him through his undergraduate studies of chemistry at Cornell, where he completed a senior research project with Wilder D. Bancroft. At Bancroft's urging, Burton Nichols met Svedberg, who was then on his way to Wisconsin on sabbatical leave, and followed him to Madison. His introduction to sedimentation techniques was by construction of a pioneer optical centrifuge and its use in pigment characterization. Fellowships enabled the newly­married Nichols and his bride to go to Uppsala where he contributed to the early development of the ultra­centrifuge. Recollections of this period are followed by an account of his arrival at the DuPont Experimental Station to work in Kraemer's group, starting with the application of ultracentrifugal techniques to industrial problems. During his long career at DuPont, Nichols was involved in the evolution of new instruments and polymer characterization. The interview concludes with Nichols recalling colleagues, DuPont management and organization, as well as his professional society activities.


1923 B.S., Chemistry, Cornell University
1924 M.S., Chemistry, University of Wisconsin
1927 Ph.D., physical Chemistry, University of Wisconsin

  Professional Experience

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1927 - 1942 Research Chemist

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1942 - 1953 Head, Physics Section

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1953 - 1966 Supervisor, Physics and Analytical Division

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Early death of father, family background. Growing up in Danbury, Connecticut, influence of school superintendent. World War I.

Undergraduate Education 4

Cornell faculty. Senior project with Bancroft. Curriculum.

Graduate Studies 9

Wisconsin and Svedberg visit. Start of centrifuge development, particle size of pigments. Marraige and move to Uppsala. Life in Sweden. Svedberg and the ultracentrifuge, completion of doctoral dissertation.

DuPont 26

Kraemer and appointment at DuPont. Colleagues. Pigment characterization.

Continuation of Interview 30

Polymer development and Hale Charch. Characterization by osmonetry, viscosity and light scattering. Instrument design and development, physics group and colleagues. Experimental Station in the thirties and forties, academic consultants. DuPont family. Professional society activities, Gordon conferences. Further recollections of DuPont organization and fellow workers.

Notes 76

Index 78

  About the Interviewers

Raymond C. Ferguson

Raymond C. Ferguson obtained his degrees in chemistry from Iowa State University (B.S., M.S.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.). He worked in research divisions of the Organic Chemicals, Elastomer Chemicals, and Central Research Departments of DuPont, principally in molecular spectroscopy, organic structure analysis, and polymer characterization. Currently he is affiliated with CONDUX, Inc., a consulting association of former DuPont professionals.

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