Hard Times and Good Fortune

Rudolph Pariser. CHF Collections.

Rudolph Pariser. CHF Collections.

After graduating in 1944, Pariser worked briefly for Kaiser Permanente, but it did not “feel right” to be safely at home with a good job while others were risking their lives in the war. So he soon left to enlist in the U.S. Army. Although the army trained him to use his language skills for the impending invasion and occupation of Germany, Pariser ended up with the signal corps in Joplin, Missouri, where his language talents remained unused for the rest of the war.

When the war ended, his father joined the family in the United States while Pariser took advantage of the GI Bill and a fellowship from the Office of Naval Research to pursue a doctorate at the University of Minnesota. In a move that would help launch his career as a world-renowned chemist, he studied and worked alongside numerous prominent chemists, including William Lipscomb, Frank MacDougall, and perhaps most significantly, his future collaborator, Robert Parr.

In 1950, after completing his graduate work, Pariser joined DuPont’s Jackson Laboratory in New Jersey, where he studied properties of organic dyes being developed for the company’s new synthetic fabrics. This work led him to consult with his old friend Parr (now on the faculty at the Carnegie Institute of Chemistry) to develop a method of approximating molecular orbitals, now known as the Pariser-Parr-Pople method.

Pariser went on to many other successes, staying at DuPont for nearly 40 years and solidifying his position as a leader in quantum science. Stories of his fascinating and influential career abound, but the lesser-known history of his young life provides a glimpse of the early influences on his career and relates a vital narrative of adversity and human accomplishment.

Patrick H. Shea is the senior archivist for the Chemical Heritage Foundation.