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Harold J. Read

  • Born: February 14, 1911, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Died: April 19, 1999, Englewood, Florida

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0145
Interview Date: March 22, 1995
Location: Grove City, Florida
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 45
Sponsor: Electrochemical Society
Electrochemical Society

  Abstract of Interview

The interview begins with Harold J. Read describing his family background and early education in northern Illinois. Read praises his high school education and laboratory training, recalling his thesis verifying Colin Fink's patent on chromium plating. A brief discussion traces Read's education at the University of Illinois during the Depression; intermittent jobs, such as editorial work for the Commerce Clearing House; theses projects in electro-organic chemistry with Sherlock Swann, leading to B.S. and M.A. degrees; and leaving Illinois for an assistant instructor position at the University of Pennsylvania, where his Ph.D. research brought him into the area of metallurgy. The discussion next turns to Read's decision to accept a research position at the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh and his metal work making specimens for Houdaille Hershey and others, which eventually led to equipment design and manufacturing prototypes for the Manhattan Project. The majority of the interview discusses Read's involvement with the ECS, beginning with his introduction to the Society in 1934 and his election as secretary of the local sections in Philadelphia and later in Pittsburgh. Read describes local section meetings and initial Society activities, including planning for the Spring 1940 national meeting, editing work on Modern Electroplating, chairing the Electrodeposition Division, and chairing the Publications Committee, where he was influential in broadening the Society's publication activities. He also discusses his work with the Society's monograph series and awards committees, emphasizing the diversity of scientific interests within The ECS. Next, the conversation focuses on Read's decision to accept the vice presidential nomination, which eventually led to the presidency of the ECS. As president his work focused on publications, the discontinuation of Electrochemical Technology, and the implementation of the Council of Past Presidents. The interview ends with a discussion of Read's views of the Society and electrochemistry, present and future. Read reflects on the Society's reaction to new developments in electrochemistry and related fields, comments on the growth of membership and national meetings, and comments on the Society's contributions to his career in terms of science and technology, human relations, and his consulting practice. Closing remarks emphasize the ECS's problems with the publication and storage of abundant new scientific information and the continued diversifying and branching of the Society and the field.


1934 B.S., Chemistry, University of Illinois
1935 M.S., Chemistry, University of Illinois
1939 Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania

  Professional Experience

University of Illinois

1933 - 1935 Chemist, Engineering Experimental Station

University of Pennsylvania

1935 - 1937 Assistant Instructor

Graham, Crowley & Associates

1936 - 1940 Part-time Chemist

University of Pennsylvania

1937 - 1938 DuPont Fellow

University of Pennsylvania

1938 - 1940 Instructor

Mellon Institute for Industrial Research

1940 - 1945 Industrial Fellow

Pennsylvania State University

1945 - 1951 Associate Professor of Physical Metallurgy

Pennsylvania State University

1951 - 1971 Professor of Metallurgy


1961 Proctor Memorial Award, Electroplaters Society
1966 Scientific Achievement Award, Electroplaters Society
1986 Honorary Member, The Electrochemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Family background. High school interest in electrochemistry. Experiments verifying Colin G. Fink's chromium plating patent.

College Education 3

Scholarship to the University of Illinois. Editing work for Commerce Clearing House to raise funds for college. Bachelor's and Master's degree theses with Sherlock Swann. Assistant instructorship at the University of Pennsylvania. Doctoral thesis on metallurgy with Martin Kilpatrick. Marriage to Catherine P. Braungard.

Postgraduate Career 5

Mellon Institute for Industrial Research fellowship. Work on Manhattan Project. Development of instrument-making business with wife. Professorship at Pennsylvania State University. Consulting work with Graham, Crowley & Associates.

Electrochemical Society Activities 8

Membership in The ECS while attending the University of Illinois. Early ECS meetings. Election to secretary of Philadelphia chapter. Diversity of The ECS. Relationship of The ECS to the American Chemical Society. Editorial work on Modern Electroplating. Chairmanship of the Electrodeposition Division in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Chairmanship of the Publications Committee. Development of an electroplating symposium and the institution of a monograph series including Herbert H. Uhlig's Corrosion Handbook. Position as technical editor of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society. Publication policies of the Journal. Work on various awards committees.

Presidency of The Electrochemical Society. 22

Acceptance of vice presidential nomination. Discontinuation of Electrochemical Technology. Implementation of the Council of Past Presidents.

Views and Opinions on The Electrochemical Society. 25

Relationship of The ECS to other scientific organizations and to industrial sponsors. Relationship between academic and industrial contingents within The ECS. Relationship between various divisions within The ECS. Reaction of The ECS to scientific innovations. Positive and negative changes within The ECS. Influence of The ECS on career and professional activity. The future of The ECS. The future of electrochemistry.

Notes 40

Index 41

  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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