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Walter H. Stockmayer

  • Born: April 7, 1914, Rutherford, New Jersey
  • Died: May 9, 2004

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0049
Interview Dates: August 25, 1986 and January 22, 1992
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Interviewers: Peter J.T. Morris and Jeffrey L. Sturchio
No. of pages: 99

  Abstract of Interview

In the first interview, Walter Stockmayer describes early influences directing him towards the chemical sciences. Stockmayer first became interested in the mathematical aspects of physical chemistry as an undergraduate at MIT. A Rhodes Scholarship brought Stockmayer to Oxford, where he undertook gas kinetics research with D. L. Chapman. Stockmayer returned to MIT for Ph.D. research and pursued his study of statistical mechanics, which he later continued at Columbia. He returned again to MIT in 1943 as an assistant professor of chemistry and became involved in the theory of network formation and the gelation criterion. Stockmayer increasingly directed his attention to theories of polymer solutions, light scattering and chain dynamics.

The second interview begins with Stockmayer's Guggenheim Fellowship in Strasbourg, France, his first meeting with Hermann Staudinger in Freiburg, Germany, and his subsequent return to MIT. Stockmayer then moved to Dartmouth University in 1961, where he worked primarily on copolymers in dilute solution, established the journal Macromolecules, and collaborated with numerous Japanese scientists. He discusses his impression of the Gordon Conferences and the polymer community since the 1940s. Stockmayer concludes with his retirement and work as a consultant for DuPont and other companies.


1935 S.B. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1937 B.Sc. University of Oxford
1940 Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1937 - 1938 Teaching Fellow in Chemistry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1938 - 1941 Instructor and Research Fellow

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1943 - 1946 Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1946 - 1952 Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1952 - 1961 Professor of Physical Chemistry

Columbia University

1941 - 1943 Instructor

Dartmouth College

1961 - 1962 Professor of Chemistry

Dartmouth College

1962 - 1967 Class of 1925 Professor

Dartmouth College

1967 - 1979 Albert W. Smith Professor

Dartmouth College

1963 - 1967 Chairman, Chemistry Department

Dartmouth College

1973 - 1976 Chairman, Chemistry Department

Dartmouth College

1979 Professor Emeritus


1935 - 1937 Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University
1946 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1954 - 1955 Guggenheim Fellowship
1955 Stas Medal, Société Chimique de Belgique
1956 National Academy of Sciences
1958 Bourke Lecturer, Faraday Society
1960 College Chemistry Teacher Award, Manufacturing Chemists Association
1966 Polymer Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
1972 Honorary Doctorate, Université‚ Louis-Pasteur, Strasbourg, France
1974 Debye Award in Physical Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1975 High Polymer Physics Prize, American Physical Society
1976 Honorary Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford
1977 Honor Scroll, Massachusetts Institute of Chemists
1978 Humboldt Preis, Humboldt Foundation, West Germany
1982 Distinguished Lecturer Award, Polymer Science Department, University of Massachusetts
1983 Honorary L.H.D., Dartmouth College
1987 Service Award, Division of Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1987 National Medal of Science
1988 Richards Medal, Northeastern Section, American Chemical Society
1988 Polymer Chemistry Division Award, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Growing up in New Jersey. Influence of father, an organic chemist. High school interests.

Undergraduate Education 4

Settling in as freshman at MIT. Faculty, lecture and laboratory courses. Senior Project.

Oxford University 10

Rhodes scholarship. D. L. Chapman and research on catalyst poisoning. Oxford dons and colleagues. Graduate Studies PVT relations for hydrocarbon mixtures. Theoretical interests. Fellow students.

Columbia University 21

Joseph and Maria Mayer, mathematical treatments. Colleagues at Columbia. Flory and gelation theory.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 27

Changes in faculty and direction of chemical research interests. Light scattering and polymer solution theories. Gordon Research Conferences. Effect of computers on polymer solution theory.

Guggenheim Fellowship 46

Strasbourg, France. Impression of European polymer chemistry. Final years at MIT.

Dartmouth University 51

Reason for move. Paper on copolymers in dilute solution. Colleagues and students. Impression of Dartmouth. NRC Army Research Advisory Committee. ACS Polymer Division Chairmanship. Founding of Macromolecules. Impression of polymer community and Gordon Conferences.

Work in the 1970s 66

Collaboration with Japanese scientists. Sabbatical in Freiburg. Retirement.

Consulting at DuPont 73

Nature of academic/industrial collaboration. Mechanics of consulting. Consulting with other companies. Relationship with Paul Flory. Family.

Notes 81

Index 88

  About the Interviewers

Peter J.T. Morris

Peter J. T. Morris is currently at the Department of the History of Science and Technology of the Open University, where he is Royal Society-British Academy Research Fellow. Morris was educated at Oxford University receiving his B.A., chemistry in 1978; D.Phil., modern history in 1983, and he was a research fellow at the Open University from 1982 to 1984. During the period 1985–1987, Peter Morris was Assistant Director for Special Projects at the Beckman Center. He was the Royal Society–British Academy Research Fellow at the Open University, Milton Keynes, between 1987 and 1991, and Edelstein International Fellow in 1991–92. He is author of the monographs, Archives of the British Chemical Industry, 1800–1914 and Polymer Pioneers; his volume The American Synthetic Rubber Research Program was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in December 1989. Morris also co-edited Milestones in 150 Years of the Chemical Industry in 1991 and The Development of Plastics in 1994.

Jeffrey L. Sturchio

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an A.B. in history from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

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