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Paul B. Weisz

  • Born: July 2, 1919, Pilsen, Czechoslovakia
  • Died: September 25, 2012, State College, Pennsylvania

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0141
Interview Date: March 27, 1995
Location: State College, Pennsylvania
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 60
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Paul Weisz begins this interview by discussing his family background. Because of the political uncertainty of Austria-Hungary in the post World War I period, his family moved to Berlin when he was a young boy. Weisz was educated in the Gymnasium, where he was exposed to basic science and developed an interest in physics and chemistry. His father further encouraged him to pursue the sciences, and Weisz remembers building small radios. Weisz attended the Technical University in Berlin and spent his free time in the laboratory of Wolfgang Kohlhoerster at the Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research. There, he worked on Geiger counter instrumentation and cosmic ray measurements. Because of Hitler's rise to power, Weisz decided to come to the United States and arranged an exchange program with Auburn University. He earned his B.S. in physics from Auburn in 1940 and accepted a research position at the Bartol Research Foundation in Pennsylvania. There, Weisz worked on radiation counting and projects relating to the National Research Defense Council. After gaining clearance to do classified work, he moved to the MIT Radiation Laboratory where he helped to develop a long range navigation trainer (Loran). Weisz returned to Bartol, but soon decided to move away from cosmic ray research. He accepted a position with Mobil Corporation, where he worked on catalysis and cracking catalysts. In the 1950s, Weisz began to investigate zeolites and shape selective catalysis. In 1966, he completed his Sc.D. at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, where he had worked with Heinrich Zollinger on dye chemistry. Weisz concludes the interview by discussing innovation in industry, the importance of interdisciplinary thinking, and his later work on Alzheimer's Disease and angiogenesis.


1939 Physics, Technical University, Berlin
1940 B.S., Physics, Auburn University
1966 Ph.D. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule)

  Professional Experience

Humboldt University, Berlin

1938 - 1939 Assistant

MIT Radiation Laboratory

1940 - 1946 Wartime Research Assistant

Swarthmore College

1942 - 1943 Instructor (evening courses to U.S. Signal Corps trainees)

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1946 - 1961 Research Associate

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1961 - 1967 Senior Scientist

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1967 - 1969 Manager, Exploratory Process Research

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1969 - 1982 Manager, Central Research Laboratory, Princeton, N.J.

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1982 - 1984 Scientific Advisor

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1984 Retired

Princeton University

1974 - 1976 Visiting Professor

University of Pennsylvania

1984 Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Bio-Engineering (now emeritus)

Catalysis and R&D Strategy

1984 Consultant

Pennsylvania State University

1993 Adjunct Professor, Chemical Engineering


1972 E. V. Murphy Award in Industrial Engineering Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1974 Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1977 Leo Friend Award, American Chemical Society
1977 Elected member, National Academy of Engineering
1978 R. H. Wilhelm Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineering
1980 Honorary Doctorate (Sc.D., technological science), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
1983 Lavoisier Medal, Société Chimique de France
1983 Langmuir Distinguished Lecturer Award, American Chemical Society
1985 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
1986 Chemistry of Contemporary Technological Problems Award, American Chemical Society
1987 Carothers Award, American Chemical Society
1988 DGKM Kollegium Award (Germany)
1992 National Medal of Technology

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Family background. Gymnasium and interest in science. Influence of father.

University Education 9

Attendance at Technical University in Berlin. Work in laboratory at Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research. Decision to go to the United States. Exchange with Auburn University.

Bartol Research Foundation 14

Radiation counting. Projects for National Research Defense Council. Work on navigation instrumentation. Clearance for classified work.

Career at Mobil Corporation 20

Research freedom. Work on catalysis and cracking catalysts. Investigation of heterogeneous catalysis. Work on zeolites. Development of selectoforming. Researching shape selective catalysis.

Innovation in Industry 35

Interdisciplinary thinking. Conflict between corporate thinking and research needs.

Retirement 40

Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Interrelation between zeolite work and research on Alzheimer's Disease. Work on angiogenesis. Receiving the Perkin Medal and the National Medal of Technology.

Notes 51

Index 55

  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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