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Donald S. Noyce

Donald Noyce

Detail of Image, Courtesy of John D. Roberts, CHF Collections

  • Born: May 26, 1923, Burlington, Iowa
  • Died: November 3, 2004, Oakland, California

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0297
Interview Date: January 22, 1981
Location: University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
Interviewer: Leon B. Gortler
No. of pages: 35

  Abstract of Interview

Donald Noyce begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood home in Iowa. He discusses his family and their strong academic tradition, his years at Grinnell College, and his early training as a chemist. He also details his graduate training at Columbia University, including his work with Bill (William von Eggers) Doering, his courses, research, and the University's atmosphere. Next, he discusses his position at the University of California at Berkeley. He describes the faculty, the chemistry administration, and the changing atmosphere with respect to organic chemistry. He describes briefly his interaction with other faculty, his research, and his graduate students. Finally, he discusses the development of physical organic chemistry from the turn of the century to 1980.


1944 A.B., Chemistry, Grinnell College
1945 M.A. Columbia University
1947 Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Columbia University

  Professional Experience

Columbia University

1946 - 1946 National Institutes of Health Fellow

University of California, Berkeley

1948 - 1950 Instructor

University of California, Berkeley

1950 - 1955 Assistant Professor

University of California, Berkeley

1952 - 1960 Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Chemistry

University of California, Berkeley

1955 - 1960 Associate Professor

University of California, Berkeley

1960 - 1986 Professor

University of California, Berkeley

1974 - 1981 Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Chemistry

University of California, Berkeley

1981 - 1986 Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Chemistry


1957 Guggenheim Fellowship (Europe)
1964 National Science Foundation Senior Fellow
1986 Berkeley Citation, University of California, Berkeley
1987 Establishment of the annual Donald Sterling Noyce Prize, University of California, Berkeley

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Education 1

Brief discussion of family history. Attending college. Campus life during World War II. Chemistry faculty and graduates. Graduate applications to Illinois and Columbia. The Roberts Fellowship at Columbia.

Graduate Research at Columbia University 7

War research at Columbia. Thermo with V. K. LaMer. Natural products with Pop (John M.) Nelson. Organic lab with William von Eggers Doering. Alkaloids with Elderfield. Doering as a person and teacher. Choosing a research director. Postdoctoral work. Ruth Alice Weill and the Katonah Laboratory. Apocryphal tale of promotion meeting. Hammett course in 1945.

University of California at Berkeley 15

Being hired at Berkeley. Facilities and faculty. Influence of G. N. Lewis on the department. Influence of Wendell Latimer after Lewis' retirement. Changes in the role of organic chemistry. Lack of "political" orientation of Berkeley faculty. Bill Dauben. Melvin Calvin's teaching. Long term project on acid catalyzed reactions. Hiring Andrew Streitwieser at Berkeley.

The Growth and Development of Chemistry 20

Transition in organic chemistry. The development of physical organic chemistry. Changes at Berkeley. Effect of World War II. Physical organic chemistry today (1981). Aborted beginning to physical organic chemistry circa 1900.

Addendum 29

Note written by Donald S. Noyce in July 2000.

Notes 30

Index 32

  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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