Gordon Research Conferences

Carlyle B. Storm begins the interview describing his family background and chosen academic path. After obtaining his PhD , Storm became a professor of chemistry at Howard University and worked to secure funding for research. In the early 1980s, he accepted a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he researched conventional high explosives as chief scientist, becoming program manager in 1989. Storm first attended Gordon conferences in the early 1970s, and in 1988, he founded and chaired the Energetic Materials Conference. Storm's experiences managing scientists at Los Alamos and working with non-profit boards uniquely qualified him to become the director of the Gordon Research Conferences in 1993. As director, Storm traveled to many conferences, improved administrative processes, and evaluated the economic, participation dynamics, and governance of the organization. Under his leadership, the conferences expanded across the country and the globe. Storm has worked hard to ensure that each conference follows the Gordon format and brand image, no matter where in the world it is. Storm feels strongly that graduate students should participate in the conferences, and has encouraged their participation through programs such as the Gordon-Kenan Summer Schools and Graduate Research Seminars. Additionally, he has considered developing a permanent facility for the Gordon Research Conferences. Storm concludes the interview by recalling scientific advances that have been realized as a result of the interaction among leading scientists at the Gordon Research Conferences. 

Fred Basolo begins the interview discussing his arrival at Northwestern University as an inorganic chemist in 1946. At that time, organic chemistry dominated the field of chemistry, and inorganic chemistry was seen as insignificant. Over the next few years, inorganic chemistry developed into a substantial component of chemistry. Basolo played a major role in that expansion—what he refers to as "the birth of inorganic chemistry." The formation of the Inorganic Chemistry Gordon Research Conference, which Basolo helped organize, was a key factor in inorganic chemistry's rising significance. Although there was no funding for the first conference and attendees had to pay their own travel and registration expenses, enough chemists participated to make the Inorganic GRC successful, and it developed into an annual event. Basolo describes the Inorganic GRC, as well as his heavy involvement in it, for which the conference presented him an award for his fifty years of service. Basolo also talks about his graduate studies under John C. Bailar, Jr., a coordination chemist for whom Basolo had a great deal of respect, and who instigated the first Inorganic Chemistry GRC. Following in Bailar's footsteps, Basolo specialized in coordination chemistry, and discovered the coboglobin site. Basolo also discusses his role in GRC governance, first being nominated to council, then to the board of trustees, and eventually becoming the board chairman. Basolo had concerns that the rapid growth of the organization and the Inorganic Conference could cause applicants to be turned away. Basolo ends his interview with his thoughts about the future of chemistry and GRC. 

Norman Hackerman begins the interview with a description of his graduate education at Johns Hopkins University and his encounters with Neil E. Gordon. After graduating from Johns Hopkins with a PhD in chemistry, Hackerman became a steady participant of the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC)—particularly the Corrosion Conference, which he chaired in 1950. Hackerman recalls that the early conferences were helpful to his scientific research, and that the atmosphere was informal and interactive. He also explains that as the numbers of attendees, disciplines, and locations of the conferences increased, the conference atmosphere became a more formal, lecture-type setting. Hackerman discusses some of the activities of the GRC board of trustees, on which he served as a member from 1970 to 1973. From attendee to conference chairman to trustee, Hackerman watched GRC evolve into an international organization that brings together thousands of individuals from academe, government, and industry. Hackerman concludes the interview by commenting on the important role that GRC plays in public education and public understanding of science.

Robert W. Parry begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood in Ogden, Utah. After graduating from Ogden High School, Parry attended Weber College for two years, where he studied chemistry until his funding ran out. At that point, Parry started performing research for the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. When Rudger H. Walker, Parry's supervisor at the Forest Service, became dean of the College of Agriculture at Utah State University in Logan, Parry followed him, and there received his B.S. in 1940. Parry continued his education, earning his M.S. from Cornell University in 1942 and his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1946. Parry briefly discusses his early career, which included positions at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, the Munitions Development Laboratory at the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, and the University of Utah. Parry then discusses at length his experiences with the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC). Parry attended his first conference on inorganic chemistry in the 1950s and has attended almost every Inorganic Chemistry Conference since. Parry has served GRC as a conference chairman, as an executive committee member, and as chairman of the board of directors. Parry describes the evolution of GRC through four distinct eras: the Gibson Island Conferences, and the directorships of W. George Parks, Alexander M. Cruickshank, and Carlyle B. Storm. Parry concludes the interview with a discussion of the strengths and importance of GRC.