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Charles C. Price

Charles C. Price

CHF Collections

  • Born: July 13, 1913, Passaic, New Jersey
  • Died: February 11, 2001

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0005
Interview Date: April 26, 1979
Location: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Interviewer: Leon B. Gortler
No. of pages: 66
Minutes: 240

  Abstract of Interview

During the course of this interview, Charles Price discusses his life and career as a chemist. Initially, he recalls his childhood, early education, and undergraduate life at Swarthmore College. Price then speaks about his teachers and colleagues at Harvard University, where he did graduate work. Considerations about his work at the University of Illinois, his first faculty appointment, and research for the National Defense Research Committee during the war follow. Price explains why he assumed the chairmanship of the department of chemistry at the University of Notre Dame and why he convened the first Conference on Organic Reaction Mechanisms, a landmark in the development of physical organic chemistry. Price elucidates his research at Notre Dame and then at the University of Pennsylvania, where, as chairman, he helped to rebuild the department of chemistry. The interview concludes with Price discussing his more recent chemical research, the current state of physical organic chemistry, his family, and his political and sporting activities.


1934 B.A., Chemistry, Swarthmore College
1935 M.A., Chemistry, Harvard University
1936 Ph.D., Chemistry, Harvard University

  Professional Experience

University of Illinois

1936 - 1946 Assistant Professor to Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

1945 - 1945 Visiting Lecturer

University of Notre Dame

1946 - 1954 Professor and Chairman of Department of Chemistry

National Research Council

1947 - 1951 Member of Subcommittee on Plastics

University of Pennsylvania

1951 - 1955 Member of Committee on Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering Science Department of Chemistry

University of Pennsylvania

1954 - 1966 Blanchard Professor and Chairman

University of Pennsylvania

1966 - 1978 University Professor

University of Pennsylvania

1978 - Present Emeritus professor of chemistry


1946 Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Influences 1

Parents, grandmother, and siblings. Influence of Jerry Creighton and Louis Fieser. An entrepreneurial father and a Quaker tradition. The George School, science courses, and sports.

Undergraduate Education 6

The honors program at Swarthmore. Other chemistry students. Edward H. Cox. Mathematics, history and philosophy of science. "Ducky" Holmes and Brand Blanchard.

Graduate Study at Harvard University 11

Becoming a chemist. Coursework with Kohler. Research with Fieser on reaction mechanisms. Kistiakowsky. The impact of Huckel's work. Electrostatic versus resonance effects. Colleagues and ambience at Harvard.

Work at the University of Illinois 18

A post-doc with Roger Adams. Teaching organic chemistry. Speed Marvel. Academic salaries. Early research problems. Polymerization.

The Emergence of Physical Organic Chemistry 22

The conference at Notre Dame on organic mechanisms. The impact of Hammett's book. Resonance factors. Paul Bartlett. World War II and the unification of physical organic chemistry.

Wartime Research 27

Electrophilic substitution and resonance effects. Water decontamination and the behavior of mustards. Paul Bartlett, Saul Winstein, and other colleagues. Antimalarials and Roy Roberts.

From Illinois to Notre Dame 34

Teaching at Illinois. The Notre Dame appointment. Colleagues at Illinois and Notre Dame. Bob Woodward.

Recent Research 40

Mustards and chemotherapy. DNA alkylation. RNA synthesis and evolution.

The Practice of Physical Organic Chemistry 45

A changing discipline. Some unsolved problems. Biochemical and solid state applications. Rubber research and polypropylene oxides. Building a department at Notre Dame. Chemistry at Penn.

Political Ventures 52

United World Federalists. Running for political office. Disarmament sentiments.

Personal and Professional Perspectives 56

Wife and children. Sally Price, champion sailor. Reminiscences of colleagues.

  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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