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James N. Shoolery

  • Born: June 25, 1925, Worland, Wyoming

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0230
Interview Date: January 18, 2002
Location: Palo Alto, California
Interviewers: David C. Brock and Arnold Thackray
No. of pages: 67

  Abstract of Interview

James N. Shoolery begins the interview by discussing his family background and growing up during the Depression. His interest in chemistry began in his childhood and grew further during his undergraduate years at the University of California, Berkeley. His education was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in the U.S. Navy as a radar technician in the South China Sea. Upon his return to the United States, Shoolery toyed with the idea of pursuing electrical engineering because of his experiences in the Navy, but he ultimately decided against it. Shoolery decided to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and worked under Don M. Yost on microwave spectroscopy. After visiting an electronics show in Los Angeles, California, and seeing their exhibit, Shoolery wrote to Varian Associates, Inc. about the possibility of his coming to work there on applications for nuclear magnetic resonance. He joined Varian Associates, Inc. in 1952 and spent nearly forty years working there. Shoolery shares his impressions of Varian Associates, Inc., its management, its products, and his pride in having been able to follow the development of NMR for such an extended period of time. Shoolery concludes the interview with a discussion of his life outside of Varian and shares some final thoughts about his career.

  Education

1948 B.S., Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
1952 Ph.D., Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

  Professional Experience

Varian Associates, Inc.

1952 - 1962 Director, Applications Laboratory

Varian Associates, Inc.

1962 - 1969 Marketing Manager, Analytical Instrument Division

Varian Associates, Inc.

1972 - 1990 Senior Application Chemist

Consulting

1969 - 1972 Independent Consultant

Consulting

1990 Independent Consultant

  Honors

1964 Sargent Award
1965 Award in Chemical Instrumentation, American Chemical Society, Division of Analytical Chemistry
1982 Anachem Award, Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background 1

Parents' background. Impact of the Great Depression. Time at a sanitarium. Move to California. Role of religion in his life. Pre-college education. University of California, Berkeley. Development of scientific interests.

University of California, Berkeley 6

Joel Hildebrand. Nobel laureates as teachers. Gilbert N. Lewis. William F. Giauque. William C. Bray. Melvin Calvin. Glenn T. Seaborg.

World War II and the United States Navy 8

Eddy Test for radar technicians. Entrance exams. Alpha Chi Sigma fraternity. Friendship with William W. Reynolds. Tour of duty in Pacific. Okinawa, Japan. Experience in a typhoon. Hainan, China. Hong Kong, China. Shanghai, China. Experiences on shore leave. Qingdao, China.

Return to the United States 16

Return to the University of California, Berkeley and coursework in electrical engineering. Decision to go to graduate school at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Montgomery G.I. Bill.

Graduate School Years 18

Social life and ice-skating. Robert A. Millikan. William D. Gwinn. Microwave spectroscopy. Decision to work with Don M. Yost. John S. Waugh. Robert G. Shulman. Building a microwave spectrometer. Hewlitt-Packard, Inc. Varian Associates, Inc. Bout with mononucleosis. Carbon-14 dating. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Coursework at Caltech. John G. Kirkwood. Bernie J. Alder. Linus C. Pauling. Allan R. Sandage as roommate. Interactions with Don M. Yost. Introduction to Varian Associates, Inc. H. Myrl Stearns. Ralph W. Kane.

Varian Associates, Inc. 25

Russell H. and Sigurd F. Varian. Felix Block, William W. Hansen, and NMR patents. Varian special products division. Applications work. Humble Oil Company and ethyl alcohol tests. Advertising in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Rolly Williams. First NMR spectrometer. Competition. Shell Development Company. Impressions of Varian Associates, Inc. and its Management. Emery Rogers and marketing. Model A60. Virginia Royden. LeRoy F. Johnson. Spectra Physics, Inc. SpectraSpin. Elias J. Corey. Nuclear Side Band Oscillator. Oxford Instruments, PLC and its magnets. Bruker Instruments Company. Carl Djerassi. Shoolery as "product champion" and as marketing manager for NMR division. JEOL Ltd. Model T60. Model CFT20. Model CFT80. Gemini Model. Shoolery as chemist "consumer."

Time Away from Varian 48

Stagnancy at Varian Associates, Inc. Personal life. Carl R. Rogers and "active listening." Teaching. Return to Varian as applications chemist. Divorce and remarriage.

General Reflections 50

Development of NMR. Infrared spectroscopy. NMR and its acceptance by inorganic and organic chemists and biochemists. X-ray crystallography. Pharmaceutical companies. Reflections on Varian. J. Tracy O'Rourke. Tom Sege. Edward L. Ginzton. Computer aided tomography scanning and magnetic resonance imaging.

Life Outside Varian 55

Family life. Judith L. Shoolery and her work. Interest in traveling. Living in Half Moon Bay, California. Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Consulting work. Final thoughts on his career.

Notes 59

Addenda 60

I. Letter to Mr. Stearns

Index 61

  About the Interviewer

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Arnold Thackray

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

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