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Malcolm E. Pruitt

Malcolm Pruitt

Dow Historical Collection, CHF Collections

  • Born: October 15, 1915, Hamilton, Texas
  • Died: May 30, 2003

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0039
Interview Date: January 15, 1986
Location: Midland, Michigan
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 51
Minutes: 90

  Abstract of Interview

In this interview Mac Pruitt discusses his early upbringing in a rural area of Texas and his struggles to complete undergraduate education during the Depression. After starting as a control chemist on the graveyard shift at the Dow facility in Freeport, Texas, Pruitt progressed through the laboratories and embarked on his extensive studies of the ionic polymerization of cyclic oxide monomers. The circumstances of his move into senior research management and his eventual transfer to Midland, Michigan, are embellished by Pruitt's reflections on R&D and on his initiatory role in the formation of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology and the Council for Chemical Research.

  Education

1941 B.S., Chemistry, Abilene Christian University

  Professional Experience

Hamilton County Public School, Texas

1936 - 1941 Teacher

Clyde Independent Schools, Texas

1941 - 1942 Teacher

Dow Chemical Company

1942 - 1943 Control Chemist, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1943 - 1944 Research Chemist, Gas Laboratory, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1944 - 1946 Research Chemist, Organic Laboratory, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1946 - 1948 Project Leader, Texas DIvision

Dow Chemical Company

1948 - 1951 Group Leader, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1951 - 1954 Laboratory Group Leader, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1954 - 1962 Director, Organic Products Development Laboratory, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1962 - 1967 Director of Product Research, Texas Division

Dow Chemical Company

1967 - 1971 Director of Research and Development, Texas Division

Dow Chemical USA

1971 - 1978 Director of Research & Development

Dow Chemical Company

1975 - 1980 Vice-President

Dow Chemical Company

1978 - 1980 Corporate Director of Research and Development

Council for Chemical Research

1980 - 1982 Chairman

Council for Chemical Research

1982 Honorary Chairman

  Honors

1972 Alumni Citation, Abilene Christian University
1973 Honorary Doctor of Science, Abilene Christian University
1978 Industrial Research Institute Medal
1981 Society of Research Adminstrators Award
1982 Commercial Development Association Award
1983 Outstanding Alumnus, Abilene Christian University
1985 First Recipient of Mac Pruitt Award, Council for Chemical Research
1987 Earle Barnes Award, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Growing up on a farm in Hamilton, Texas. Siblings. Recollections of elementary and high school teachers.

Undergraduate Education 2

Scholarship to Abilene Christian College. Struggle to continue higher education during the Depression. Break from college to take a full-time teaching job in a rural school. Summer terms at North Texas State College. Graduation from Abilene in 1941 and a further year teaching in Clyde, Texas. Memories of faculty at both colleges.

Dow Chemical Company 6

Circumstances of obtaining position as control chemist in Freeport, Texas. Transfer to Dow Magnesium Corporation and return to the gas laboratories of the main company. Subsequent move to the research laboratory. Polymerization studies of ethylene oxide and related monomers. Problems of the polymerization exotherm; control of molecular weight and its distribution. Development of major program on ionic polymerization. IUPAC meeting on ionic polymerization. Synthetic lubricants. Academic courses at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and University of Houston. Urethane developments; Nutrifoam. Birth of Gel Permeation Chromatography and the impetus for instrumental innovation. Colleagues at Dow and their styles of management. Polycarbonate resins.

Senior Research Management; transfer to Midland 30

Reflections on R&D management and its status within the company organization. Product stewardship. Energy and environmental concerns. Formation of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology. Start of the Council for Chemical Research; industrial and academic research cooperation; academic research funding. Problems of senior management in present day industrial chemical research and development. The perceived image of chemistry and the chemical industry.

Notes 46

Index 47

  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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