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Charles E. Reed

  • Born: August 11, 1913, Findlay, Ohio
  • Died: November 16, 2007

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0051
Interview Date: July 11, 1986
Location: New York, New York
Interviewer: George Wise
No. of pages: 65
Minutes: 210

  Abstract of Interview

Charles Reed begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and early education. Reed grew up in Findlay, Ohio, and credits his high school teachers with fostering his interest in the sciences. He attended Case School of Applied Science, earning his B.S. in chemistry in 1934. At Case, he was influenced greatly by Professor Carl Prutton, and Reed decided to continue on to graduate school. There, Reed wanted to pursue both chemistry and chemical engineering, and he combined his interests at MIT, where he earned his D.Sc. in chemical engineering in 1937. His thesis focused on colloid chemistry, which led to his later fascination with polymer chemistry. Upon receiving his doctorate, Reed became an assistant professor at MIT. While there, he also began to consult for various companies. In 1942, he accepted a permanent position with General Electric Company, where he spent the rest of his career. His first work involved organosilicon polymers and the scaling up of processes. When G.E. decided to set up a chemical engineering department, Reed was selected as the manager. Through the years, Reed gradually moved up the management ladder, becoming senior vice-president of corporate technology in 1971. During his time at G.E., he helped scale up the silicone processes and worked on phenolic laminates, the commercial development of synthetic diamonds, and the development of both polycarbonates and polyphenylene oxide. Reed concludes the interview with his thoughts on the future of G.E. and his experience as a member of one of its Sector Boards.


1934 B.S., Chemistry, Case Institute of Technology
1937 D.Sc., Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1937 - 1942 Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

General Electric Company

1942 - 1945 Research Associate

General Electric Company

1945 - 1952 Engineering Manager, Chemical Division

General Electric Company

1952 - 1959 General Manager, Silicone Products Department

General Electric Company

1959 - 1962 General Manager, Silicone & Metal Products Department

General Electric Company

1962 - 1968 Vice President and General Manager, Chemical and Metals Division

General Electric Company

1968 - 1971 Vice-President and Group Executive, Components and Materials Group

General Electric Company

1971 - 1979 Senior Vice President, Corporate Technology


1969 Elected, National Academy of Engineering
1971 Commercial Development Association Award

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background and Early Education 1

Growing up in Findlay, Ohio. Influence of high school teachers. Interest in science. Siblings.

College Education and Early Career 2

Attending Case School of Applied Science. Interest in both chemistry and chemical engineering. Influence of Professor Carl Prutton. Decision to attend graduate school at MIT. Thesis on colloid chemistry. Teaching position at MIT. Consulting. Growing interest in polymers.

General Electric Company 12

Decision to work for G.E. Organosilicon polymers. Scaling up fluid bed process. Working with Eugene Rochow and Abraham Marshall.

Chemical Engineering at G.E. 24

Setting up Chemical Engineering department. Designing full-scale silicone plant. Cross-licensing agreements with Dow. Work on phenolic laminates. Moving up in management.

G.E. Research 33

Discovery of polycarbonates by Daniel W. Fox. Commercial development of synthetic diamonds. Development of polycarbonates and PPO. Emphasis on Noryl.

Concluding Thoughts 55

Recent expansion of G.E. Sector Board.

Notes 58

Index 59

  About the Interviewer

George Wise

George Wise is a communications specialist at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady, New York. He holds a B.S. in engineering physics from Lehigh University, an M.S. in physics from University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in history from Boston University. He worked briefly as a systems engineer before entering his current career in public relations. He has published a book and several articles about the history of industrial research, invention and science. His current research interest is how people can learn from history.

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