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Francis O. Rice

Francis O. Rice

CHF Collections, Photograph by Jim Bohning

  • Born: May 20, 1890, Liverpool, U.K.
  • Died: January 18, 1989

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0006
Interview Dates: January 4, 1984 and January 5, 1984
Locations: South Bend, Indiana; and Mishawaka, Indiana
Interviewer: John A. Heitmann
No. of pages: 28
Minutes: 120

  Abstract of Interview

Francis O. Rice discusses his life and career in this interview, which begins with mention of his early days in England, his studies at Princeton, and his teaching at New York University. Rice describes his teaching, research, and administrative activities at the Johns Hopkins University and the Catholic University of America. Of central concern is his theory of free radicals. Mrs. Katherine Rice adds to the interview by discussing her husband's professional activities and remembering several of his closest colleagues. The interview concludes with an appraisal of the place of science in Catholic universities and an explanation of the Laidler-ADX controversy of the mid ­1950's.


1911 B.Sc., Chemistry, University of Liverpool
1912 M.Sc., Chemistry, University of Liverpool
1916 D.Sc., Chemistry, University of Liverpool

  Professional Experience

Princeton University

1919 - 1919 1851 Exhibition Fellow

New York University

1919 - 1920 Instructor, Chemistry Department

New York University

1920 - 1924 Assistant Professor, Chemistry Department

Catholic University of America

1938 - 1959 Professor and Head of Chemistry Department

Georgetown University

1959 - 1962 Professor and Chairman of Chemistry Department

University of Notre Dame

1962 - 1968 Visiting Research Professor and Principal Research Scientist

Johns Hopkins University

1924 - 1926 Associate, Chemistry Department

Johns Hopkins University

1926 - 1938 Associate Professor, Chemistry Department

Johns Hopkins University

1968 - 1968 Principal Research Scientist, Institute for Cooperative Research

Johns Hopkins University

1968 - Present Director, Research Chemistry Lab

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Days in England 1

Parents. Siblings. First schooling in chemistry. Attainments at the University of Liverpool. War-time service. Work with explosives. "The 1851 Fellowship."

Studies at Princeton University 4

Hugh Taylor. The juncture of physical chemistry with organic chemistry.

Teaching at New York University 4

Assistant professor. The qualities of Arthur E. Hill. Measurements of reaction rates.

Teaching and Research at John Hopkins University 5

Colleagues. Teaching interests. The Mechanism of Homogeneous Organic Reactions. Free radicals. F. A. Paneth and W. Hofeditz. Mrs. Rice. Outside consulting. Karl Herzfeld, Harold C. Urey, and Francis Bichowsky.

Two Decades at Catholic University 9

Reasons for accepting assignment there. Role of the archbishop. Drastic changes in the chemistry department.

Research Interests 11

Bivalent carbene. Free radicals. Current research endeavors.

Familial and Professional Reminiscenses 14

Mrs. Rice's education. How she met Frank Rice. Edward Teller. Opposition to the theory of free radicals. Cyril Hinshelwood. Emphasis upon the quality of teaching.

Colleagues 19

Bichowsky. Urey. Herzfeld.

Science in Catholic Institutions of Higher Learning 20

Why science lagged in these institutions. Rice's role in upgrading the teaching of science in Catholic colleges and universities.

The Laidler Controversy 21

The battery additive, ADX. Controversy over its effectiveness. The role of Laidler in this affair. The chemistry department of the Catholic University dissociates itself from Laidler. The resolution of the affair.

  About the Interviewers

John A. Heitmann

John A. Heitmann holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Davidson College and an M.A. degree in history from Clemson University. From 1971 to 1977, he worked as a chemist in the metallurgical industry. He then studied at the Johns Hopkins University under Owen Hannaway and received his doctorate in the history of science in 1983.

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