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Louis C. Rubens

Louis Rubens

Dow Historical Collection, CHF Collections

  • Born: November 9, 1919, Escanaba, Michigan

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0048
Interview Date: August 19, 1986
Location: Midland, Michigan
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 42
Minutes: 210

  Abstract of Interview

Louis Rubens begins the interview by discussing his family background and early education. Rubens grew up in Escanaba, Michigan, where his parents ran a tourist park. He attended parochial school, and he credits his teachers there for sparking his interest in mathematics and chemistry. After high school, Rubens followed in the footsteps of his older brother and attended Jordan College. There, he studied chemistry, and when the school closed in 1939 due to financial difficulties, Rubens received his Associate's degree. Though he tried to transfer to other colleges, he was not successful and soon decided to take a position at Dow. Rubens rose through the ranks of research, working on the stabilization and impact enhancement of polystyrene, the production of co-polymers, and the development of the composite foam system. Rubens concludes the interview with a discussion of the importance of management support for research, the influence of H.H. Dow's research philosophy, and the future of the foam industry.


1939 A.A.S., Chemistry, Jordan College

  Professional Experience

Dow Chemical Company

1940 - 1946 Laboratory Technician

Dow Chemical Company

1946 - 1952 Chemist

Dow Chemical Company

1952 - 1962 Group Leader

Dow Chemical Company

1962 - 1967 Associate Scientist

Dow Chemical Company

1967 - 1992 Research Scientist

Dow Chemical Company

1992 - 1996 Research Fellow



Herbert H. Dow Award


Saginaw Valley Patent Lawyers Award for Lifetime Inventors


12th International Foamed Plastics Award


Dow Inventor of the Year Award


German Fachverband Schaumkunstoffe Medal for Pioneering Research


Outstanding Achievement Award, Society of Plastics Engineers

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background and Early Education 1

Growing up in Escanaba, Michigan. Parochial school. Early interest in chemistry and math.

College Education 3

Decision to attend Jordan College. Influence of professors. Laboratory work. Financial problems of Jordan College. Associate's degree in chemistry.

Early Career 7

Position as lab helper at Dow. Quality control in styrene production. Influence of Raymond Boyer. Atmosphere of Physics Lab. Work on heat stability of Saran. Attempt to stabilize polystyrene. Production of co-polymers. Writing chapters for book on styrene.

Research Career 16

Attempt at synthetic rubber. Manufacture of GRS. Impact enhancement of polystyrene. Decision not to become management. Promotions through research ranks. Work in chemotherapy. Ion exchange resins. Urethane chemistry. Styrofoam.

Management at Dow 26

Importance of management support for research. Foam business as a growth industry. Marketing products worldwide. Influence of H.H. Dow in research philosophy. Looking to market opportunities.

Final Thoughts 29

Development of composite foam system. Relationship with colleagues.

Notes 35

Index 37

  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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