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Herman E. Schroeder

Herman Schroeder

CHF Collections, Photograph by Ray Ferguson

  • Born: July 6, 1915, Brooklyn, New York
  • Died: November 28, 2009, New Castle, Delaware

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0063
Interview Dates: December 30, 1986 and January 12, 1987
Location: Greenville, Delaware
Interviewer: Raymond C. Ferguson
No. of pages: 86
Minutes: 300

  Abstract of Interview

Herman Schroeder starts the interview by discussing his family background and growing up in Brooklyn. An early learner, Schroeder attended public and private high schools where his scientific interests were first aroused. After an early graduation he entered Harvard, and initially planned for a career in medicine. However, Schroeder soon changed set his mind on chemistry, in part influenced by his tutor, John Edsall. Staying on at Harvard for graduate study in the physical aspects of organic chemistry, Herman Schroeder investigated the rates and mechanism of the closure of large rings. He discusses the choice between industrial and academic careers and the advice of the Harvard faculty. Arriving at the DuPont Experimental Station in 1938, Schroeder outlines his initial assignments and his important wartime research on tire cord adhesives. Transferring to the Jackson Laboratories, he worked on both dyestuff synthesis and the mechanisms of dyeing synthetic fibers, as well as obtaining experience in production control. Moving to greater research responsibilities, Schroeder played an important role in the development of several polymers, which is described towards the end of the first interview. In a second interview, Ferguson asks Schroeder to comment on some of his DuPont colleagues and on some of the academic consultants to the company. The interview concludes with some of Schroeder's retirement activities and a full account of the Louisville plant explosion.


1936 A.B., summa cum laude, Chemistry, Harvard University
1937 A.M., Chemistry, Harvard University
1939 Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Harvard University

  Professional Experience

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1938 - 1945 Research Chemist, Chemical Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1945 - 1946 Research Chemist, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1946 - 1948 Research Supervisor, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1949 - 1950 Research Division Head, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1951 - 1956 Assistant Laboratory Director, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1957 - 1963 Assistant Director of Research, Elastomer Chemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1963 - 1965 Director of Research, Elastomer Chemicals Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1965 - 1980 Director of Research and Development, Elastomer Chemicals Department

Schroeder Scientific Services, Inc.

1980 President


1936 Phi Beta Kappa
1979 General Award, International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers
1984 Goodyear Medal, American Chemical Society, Rubber Division

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Parental background. Prejudice against German name. Public and private schools in New York. Interest in science, early graduation from high school.

Harvard University 5

Concentration on chemistry, Edsall as tutor. Courses and faculty. Graduate study in physical organic chemistry, the rate of closure of large rings. Marriage. Discusses choice of industrial over academic position and reaction of faculty.

Chemical Department of DuPont 17

Intermediates for polymers. Hydrocarbon chlorination, correcting ICI results. Wartime research on tire cord adhesives. Colleagues at the Experimental Station. Patents and reports. Rubbery fluoropolymers.

Jackson Laboratory 26

Dyestuff chemistry. Problems with new pigments plant. Rates and mechanisms of dyeing, dispute with Pauling. Marketing and business strategy. Return to polymers, the polyether-urethanes, segmented copolymers. Fluoropolymers.

Elastomer Chemicals Department 42

Terpolymers with unconjugated dienes. Hypalon. Nordel, patent protection. Viton and successors. Kalrez.

Second Interview 50

Vamac, cost efficiency. Termination of research projects. Research direction in Elastomer Chemicals. DuPont personalities; Charch, Carter, Elley, Holbrook. Academic consultants.

Retirement 59

Advising the Metropolitan Museum of Art on conservation. Chemical consulting. School board, Chester County. Professional organizations, Harvard visiting committee. Industrial safety, the Louisville explosion. Carcinogenic substances, toxicological testing.

Notes 74

Index 79

  About the Interviewers

Raymond C. Ferguson

Raymond C. Ferguson obtained his degrees in chemistry from Iowa State University (B.S., M.S.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.). He worked in research divisions of the Organic Chemicals, Elastomer Chemicals, and Central Research Departments of DuPont, principally in molecular spectroscopy, organic structure analysis, and polymer characterization. Currently he is affiliated with CONDUX, Inc., a consulting association of former DuPont professionals.

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