Electrochemical Society

In this, his third of three interviews with James J. Bohning of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Norman Hackerman begins by reviewing the origins of his association with The Electrochemical Society (ECS), which was related to his interest in the oxygen electrode as a student. He recalls his first paper, presented at an ECS conference and published in the Transactions of the American Electrochemical Society, and the first colleagues he met at this ECS meeting. He next describes the character of The ECS at that time, comparing it with the American Chemical Society (ACS), as well as the origins of the society's journal and his involvement in publication and editorial activities. Hackerman touches briefly upon his committee work before examining the growth, structure, membership, and functions of The ECS during his appointments. Finally he describes achievements and obstacles during his tenure as Vice President and then President, and his view of the Society's influence on electrochemistry and related fields.

The interview begins with Harold J. Read describing his family background and early education in northern Illinois. Read praises his high school education and laboratory training, recalling his thesis verifying Colin Fink's patent on chromium plating. A brief discussion traces Read's education at the University of Illinois during the Depression; intermittent jobs, such as editorial work for the Commerce Clearing House; theses projects in electro-organic chemistry with Sherlock Swann, leading to B.S. and M.A. degrees; and leaving Illinois for an assistant instructor position at the University of Pennsylvania, where his PhD research brought him into the area of metallurgy. The discussion next turns to Read's decision to accept a research position at the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh and his metal work making specimens for Houdaille Hershey and others, which eventually led to equipment design and manufacturing prototypes for the Manhattan Project. The majority of the interview discusses Read's involvement with the ECS, beginning with his introduction to the Society in 1934 and his election as secretary of the local sections in Philadelphia and later in Pittsburgh. Read describes local section meetings and initial Society activities, including planning for the Spring 1940 national meeting, editing work on Modern Electroplating, chairing the Electrodeposition Division, and chairing the Publications Committee, where he was influential in broadening the Society's publication activities. He also discusses his work with the Society's monograph series and awards committees, emphasizing the diversity of scientific interests within The ECS. Next, the conversation focuses on Read's decision to accept the vice presidential nomination, which eventually led to the presidency of the ECS. As president his work focused on publications, the discontinuation of Electrochemical Technology, and the implementation of the Council of Past Presidents. The interview ends with a discussion of Read's views of the Society and electrochemistry, present and future. Read reflects on the Society's reaction to new developments in electrochemistry and related fields, comments on the growth of membership and national meetings, and comments on the Society's contributions to his career in terms of science and technology, human relations, and his consulting practice. Closing remarks emphasize the ECS's problems with the publication and storage of abundant new scientific information and the continued diversifying and branching of the Society and the field. 

This interview discusses Frank J. Biondi's education, career, and involvement in The Electrochemical Society, beginning with college experiences as a chemical engineering major at Lehigh University and initial work at Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL). Biondi describes his position within the structure of BTL in the 1930s and reasons for his pursuit of graduate education at Columbia University. After completing his master's degree in chemical engineering, he enrolled in the PhD program and became involved in the Manhattan Project. Biondi worked on a gaseous diffusion program to separate uranium 235 from uranium ore, designing the diffusion barrier used for the atom bomb. Biondi describes the reasons for Union Carbide's appropriation of his barrier's design and related patent applications and process details, and the subsequent manufacture of large amounts of barrier. After making his contribution to the Manhattan Project, Biondi returned to BTL work and focused on electronics, initially developing long-life cathodes used by the British during the war. He continued cathode work, becoming involved with the ASTM to standardize three nickel alloys for electronics industry electron tube cathodes. Biondi describes his rise through various BTL departments, his entry into transistor work, and associations with The ECS, which began in an effort to assure BTL metallurgists designing semiconductor devices an outlet for publishing and presenting their work. After touching on solid-state activity and descriptions of new electrochemical processes in ECS publications, the interview returns to Biondi's BTL career progress, particularly his work on transistors. As Biondi reviews his later career, he discusses fuel cell work, relationships with N. Bruce Hannay and R. M. Burns, the electronics industry's first dust-free white room, semiconductor work for satellites, and improvements in battery manufacture and design. The interview closes with comments on the effects of changes related to AT&T and Lucent Technologies, the future of The ECS, and consulting work since retirement from BTL. 

The interview begins with N. Bruce Hannay discussing the origins of his interest in electrochemistry and his awareness of The Electrochemical Society as an ideal organization for discussions and publications on topics related to solid state chemistry. The interview continues as Hannay recalls Bell Labs' support for his early activities in The ECS, which included organizing meetings and suggesting speakers, particularly within the Electronics Division. Hannay emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between the Society and Bell Labs, where he served as Vice President for Research during his ECS presidency. Hannay helped to further the Society's interest in solid state and corrosion work while he had responsibility for electrochemistry at Bell Labs. Throughout the interview, he comments on positive aspects of the Society's internal operations; its relations with other scientific organizations and companies, including the American Chemical Society, GE, and Bell Labs; and the influence of colleagues such as R. M. Burns and Charles Tobias. He also describes the Society's strong responsiveness to its members' needs, its influence on his professional development during the middle of his career, and his views of the future of both The ECS and electrochemistry in general.

Charles Tobias begins this interview with a description of his extended family in Hungary and their interest in engineering. He remembers his early childhood and education in Hungary and the influence of his family and high school chemistry teacher in his selection of chemical engineering as a career. Next, Tobias discusses his education at the University of Technical Sciences in Budapest. Throughout this section he points out the strengths and weaknesses of his education and compares the US and Hungarian systems. Tobias continues by recalling his initial desire to join his brother in graduate research in the US and the intermediary time spent in wartime Hungary as a chemical engineer and, later, as a researcher. Next, he describes the legal and logistical problems he faced in leaving post-war Hungary to join his brother at Berkeley. In remembering his initial visits to Berkeley, he fondly remembers the help of John Lawrence, W. M. Latimer and others. He discusses his early research interests and contact with students as a teacher and research advisor. He finishes the first day of interviewing with an overview of the changes within his department during the 1960s. On the second day of interviewing, Tobias starts by describing his initial attraction to The ECS through student readings of the society's journal. He recalls his interest in reviving the local Berkeley section and meeting colleagues who would play a role throughout his career. As he describes his leadership in reorganizing the tone and structure of The ECS and the Theoretical Division, he emphasizes the roles played by others who joined with him. Moving on to his presidential activities, he touches on several changes within the society and the emphasis he placed on both professional conduct and attracting and supporting young society members. He also discusses the development of electrochemical engineering as a field, and the roles played by him, his students, and the society within that development. He finishes the interview with a brief comment on the role of intuition in science.