Browse Oral Histories Alphabetically

This interview with James R. Fair begins with a discussion of Fair's childhood in the Midwest. It covers his graduate career, his work during World War II and his long career with Monsanto.

Steven Farber attended in Rutgers College before switching to the engineering school. He worked on collagen in Frederick Silver’s lab and first-authored a paper. He was admitted to the Technology Policy Program at MIT. In Richard Wurtman’s lab he wrote his thesis on NutraSweet and government regulation and became interested in lipid biochemistry. His work required an electric stimulator, so he invented one, which he eventually licensed to MIT. Farber took a postdoc in Marnie Halpern’s lab at the Carnegie Institution in Washington. Switching fields, he became a developmental biologist, focusing on the early formation of the nervous system in vivo. Farber accepted an assistant professorship at Jefferson University, working under Carlo Croce in the Kimmel Cancer Center. The Pew Scholars award afforded him recognition and support for his outreach program, BioEYES. The outreach program’s purpose is to excite children about science and discovery and to improve the quality of science teachers. The program must fulfill individual school districts’ curricula while allowing the overseeing scientists time to continue their regular research.

Michael A. Farrar was born in Washington, DC. He attended University of Wisconsin, intending to major in physics and mathematics, but found biology better taught and more interesting; during the summers he worked in a chicken lab trying to manipulate genes. During his last semester he was diagnosed with Addison's disease. At Washington University in St. Louis he worked on interferon receptors in Robert Schreiber's lab; he won the Olin Medical Scientist Foundation Fellowship. He then took a postdoc with Roger Perlmutter, later following him to Merck and Company. There Farrar was able to design his own lab, to interview and recommend for hire the lab staff and technicians, and to buy whatever equipment he wanted. He now works at the University of Minnesota.

Jerry R. Faust grew up in Dallas, Texas, where a school trip to a laboratory confirmed his desire to become a scientist. He attended Stephen F. Austin State University, studying chemistry and biology. After a year as a chemist, he attended graduate school at University of Texas, Arlington. Next, he became a research associate in the Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein lab at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Faust describes Brown's and Goldstein's backgrounds, the lab's work on cholesterol metabolism, and Nobel research. After eleven years he went to E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company as a principal investigator. Faust describes the structure and research resources of the Du Pont Experimental Station and his projects there. Soon, he decided to pursue is PhD at Tufts University, where he still has a lab.

James Feeney grew up in Philadelphia and earned degrees in chemical engineering and biological sciences. He became a remedial project manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Ambler asbestos piles became one of first projects. Familiarizing himself with the project, his job was to approve the design specifications of the remedies and oversee their implementation. The treatment was capping, or covering the pile with a thick layer of dirt and vegetation and then adding a covering to protect against erosion and gabion barriers or revetments alongside waterways. Feeney details the operation and maintenance procedures entailed, explaining that EPA will monitor the sites forever. The piles cannot be removed, but they are safe and continue to be monitored by the EPA. Every five years there is a review of the annual inspections and the review is published. Feeney says that asbestos is a unique challenge because it is not degradable; its control has different and specific regulations. He thinks that people's attitudes toward the EPA have changed since he first began. Feeney strongly emphasizes that the asbestos proportion of the waste is low, that the piles are finished and safe. 

Penelope Fenner-Crisp grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Fenner-Crisp majored in zoology, working on mosquitos and malaria in Harry Beckman’s lab, and minored in chemistry. After experience in different labs in the United States and United Kingdom, Fenner-Crisp began work at the Environmental Protection Agency, writing health advisories about neurotoxins in pesticides. She helped organize Women in Science and Engineering. She became deputy director and then director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxic Substances; from there Fenner-Crisp went to the Office of Pesticide Programs where she worked on the science policy for the Food Quality Protection Act before retiring. After leaving the EPA Fenner-Crisp was director of the Risk Science Institute at the International Life Sciences Institute for four years, working on cancer guidelines for a different branch of ILSI. She hopes to improve general principles for assessment. Officially retired, she nevertheless continues to work for the non-profit organizations American Chemistry Council and Long-Range Research Initiative.

Catherine Fenselau grew up in York, Nebraska. Always interested in science, first archaeology and ultimately chemistry, she attended Bryn Mawr College. The chairman of the chemistry department, Ernst Berliner, became the first of her three mentors. Fenselau received her PhD in organic chemistry from Stanford University, working in the lab of Carl Djerassi, who became her second mentor. For her postdoc at Berkeley, she entered Calvin Melvin's lab, working directly with Alma Burlingame, then at Johns Hopkins University she worked on a broad range of biomedical problems, and her research shifted its direction more toward biochemistry. Her third mentor, Paul Talalay, helped her buy her first spectrometer, which she used for bacterial analysis and for research into anti-cancer treatments. Fenselau accepted the chairmanship of the chemistry department at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she established a regional mass spectrometry center. She began analyzing whole proteins, publishing papers about using mass spectrometry to map protein topography and about HIV Gag proteins. Fenselau moved to University of Maryland, College Park, for a two-year stint as chairman of the chemistry department. She was involved in the study of anthrax-Amerithrax-promoting the rapid detection and characterization of bacteria with mass spectrometry and she established the US Human Proteomics Organization (USHUPO), becoming its first president. She continues to teach and to conduct research in proteomics and bioinformatics.

Edwin L. Ferguson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his initial interest in computer science began to wane, and a course in genetics pushed him towards biology. He spent some time working in computer programming, but found it boring, and returned to graduate school at MIT to study biology. He went into H. Robert Horvitz's lab to work on genetics in C. Elegans. From there he went to Columbia University with a postdoc in Martin Chalfie's lab, then to University of California, Berkeley and worked in Kathryn Anderson's lab, studying dorsal-ventral patterning in Drosophila. Next, he took an assistant professorship at the University of Chicago. He continues to work in developmental genetics.

John R. Ferraro was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a tool and die maker, his mother a seamstress in a coat factory. His parents had little education themselves but valued it highly for their children. Ferraro attended Richard T. Crane Technical High School. During the Great Depression Ferraro found a job at General Motors, where he worked before entering Illinois Institute of Technology, majoring in chemistry, working with Norman Kharasch. After graduation Ferraro entered the US Army, during which time he met his future wife. After World War II, Ferraro received a master’s degree from Northwestern University, working under Charles Hurd. He then became a junior scientist position at Argonne National Laboratory. He became interested in infrared spectroscopy, then far-infrared (FIR). He taught at Loyola University in Chicago for five years, leaving there as professor emeritus. He spent a year at the Lunar Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Ferraro then moved back to Argonne, where he spent a total of fifty-seven years. Ferraro discusses a wide variety of topics both professional and personal. He concludes by summarizing his own contributions to the field.

Herman Fialkov grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Always a smart kid who wanted to build a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean. Fialkov attended City College of New York, studying engineering. He left college to take a job with Emerson Radio Corporation, and then enlisted in the United States Army, ultimately serving in the infantry in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. When he was discharged in 1946 he went back to Emerson as a mechanical designer and to night school at New York University. He founded General Transistor Corporation, whose first major customer was UNIVAC. In 1960 General Transistor Corporation merged with General Instrument Corporation and began making integrated circuits. Fialkov invested in Arthur Rock's venture capital firm, Rock and Davis, and became intrigued by venture capital. He founded his own venture capital firm, Geiger and Fialkov, and with that launched almost fifty years in personal and venture capital investments, financing the startup or early development of many important companies, including Intel; Teledyne; Electroglas, Inc.; Standard Microsystems; General Signal; Globecomm Systems; and several Israeli companies.

Frank H. Field was raised in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, by an aunt, an uncle, and a grandmother. He entered Duke University, placing a year ahead in chemistry, but had very little money. To meet his expenses he worked in the school dining hall and graded math papers. He continued on at Duke for his graduate education and worked on using fluorocarbons as hydraulic fluids to replace hydrocarbons on warships. He then took a position at the University of Texas and began his mass spectrometry career. He worked first on measuring the ionization potential of cyclopropane. Field left the University of Texas to work with Joe Franklin at Humble Oil, and then after time at Esso, he was recruited by Rockefeller University as a full professor. He shifted into biochemical mass spectroscopy to be more in keeping with the biomedical orientation of Rockefeller. He built the second Californium-252 mass spectrometer in the world. A talk in Bordeaux, France, excited his enthusiasm for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and he persuaded his postdoc, Brian Chait, to build one.

Bernard Fields begins the interview with a discussion of his early years, his undergraduate career, and his fascination with virology and microbiology. Fields became Chairman of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department at Harvard in 1982, ending his extensive research in infectious diseases just as AIDS hit the world scene. Fields concludes the interview with a discussion of the future of biological research, developing working relationships with students, and his personal battle with pancreatic cancer.

Erol Fikrig was born in Istanbul, Turkey. The family moved to Queens, New York, when Fikrig was a child. Fikrig attended Cornell University, majoring in chemistry. He decided early, influenced by both his father and his college roommate, to go to medical school. He attended Cornell's Weill School of Medicine. During his third and fourth years he studied in Brazil, where he became interested in vector-borne diseases. Interested in infectious disease and internal medicine, he did his residency at Vanderbilt University. Next, he became a fellow at Yale, where he worked in Richard Flavell's laboratory. He was offered an assistant professorship in rheumatology at Yale, eventually becoming full professor. Fikrig continues to study Lyme disease and other related diseases.

Robert E. Finnigan details his work in instrumentation and engineering, starting at the US Naval Academy and continuing in government and industrial work through the rest of his career.

Linda J. Fisher was the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances; at the time when she became the Assistant Administrator, the Office was primarily focused on pesticides. But, as Fisher recounted, the Office was committed to making the toxics program succeed, often by working around the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) statutory obligations. Fisher believes that difficulties in implementing TSCA were rooted in the law’s lack of direction, but that since TSCA was written, the way Congress writes laws has matured. She also believes that a reauthorized TSCA will address the issues of a base set of data and confidential business information and that a stronger TSCA is necessary to accompany the voluntary and pollution prevention measures currently in place. She emphasizes that regulation should address exposures where they occur, whether in the manufacturing process or in products.

David E. Fisher grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey. Deciding to pursue a career in medicine, he attended the Curtis Institute of Music and Swarthmore College concurrently. He spent his first college summer in his father's lab and published his first paper. He also worked in Robert Weinberg's lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he discovered molecular biology and oncology. Interested in lab work, he received an MD/PhD at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Rockefeller University. In Günter Blobel's laboratory he completed thesis projects on systemic lupus erythematosis and T-cells. He talks about funding, teaching, and minority and women students and faculty at Harvard University. His current research is on apoptosis and on microphthalmia transcription factor (Mitf) in melanocytes and osteoclasts.

James A. Fisher begins the interview with a description of his family and early years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After graduating early from Yale University because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Fisher secured a position in a smelter plant making aluminum for warplanes at Alcoa Inc. In 1945, Fisher left Alcoa to work for his father, Chester G. Fisher, at the family business, Fisher Scientific International Inc. After the death of his father, Fisher was instrumental in the creation of the Fisher Museum, which was used to display the Fisher Collection, and the Pasteur Room, which was dedicated to the achievements of Louis Pasteur.

In his oral history Eugene Flath describes his childhood, his education, and his career at Fairchild and Intel. He discusses his decision to leave Fairchild and the culture of both companies and those he worked with there.

Mark D. Fleming begins the interview discussing his childhood, which was dominated by his father's job at IBM. Following graduation from Princeton, Fleming received a Marshall Scholarship, which allowed him to pursue D Phil work with Sir Jack E. Baldwin at the University of Oxford; Fleming described the differences between scientific research in Europe and the United States in some detail. Next, Fleming undertook medical training at the Harvard Medical School's Health, Sciences, and Technology Program. He developed into a clinically-oriented research pathologist, and eventually became a principal investigator at Children's Hospital. Fleming discussed issues related to funding and laboratory management, mentoring students, increasing the racial diversity of students and of faculty in the sciences, scientific literacy, and collaborations.

In this interview, Karl Folkers first talks about his family and his early exposure to science. He then describes some of his experiences as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, and as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. This is followed by a long discussion of his years at Merck, and includes his research on vitamins, particularly vitamin B 12 , his work on penicillin, the structure of research at Merck, and comments on various co-workers and administrators.

During his twenty-one year career at the University of London, Foskett became director of the University Library and Goldsmiths' Librarian. In his interview, Foskett next discusses the formation of the Classification Research Group [CRG] to address the need for new ways to classify scientific literature. Foskett has been a member since CRG's formation, and Foskett developed faceted classification schemes for education and safety and health that are still in use.

Details Fox's childhood, education, introduction to polymer chemistry under Speed Marvel, and work for the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1953, Fox accepted a position at General Electric, and spent his entire career there. He worked on various projects, including polycarbonates, PPPO, PBT, and the development of Lexan and Ultem. 

He received his BA in chemistry in 1946 and his MA in chemistry in 1949, both from the University of British Columbia. Francis married shortly after, and he and his wife moved to Iowa, where he continued his studies at the University of Iowa, obtaining a PhD. in biochemistry in 1953. Francis accepted a position with Procter & Gamble in 1952. His first work there involved research on detergents and skin penetration. Procter & Gamble then moved Francis into hair research. Finally, Francis moved to the dental section, where he became involved with fluoride research.

Arnold Frankel attended City College, enrolling in the chemical engineering curriculum and receiving his BS in 1942. While at City College, he met Seymour Mann, who later became his business partner. After graduation, Frankel accepted a position with the US Rubber Company, working at a TNT plant. Soon thereafter, he moved to Publicker Industries, where he did pilot plant work. He also encouraged Mann to join Publicker. They later formed Aceto Chemical, Inc. , and exported a variety of chemicals. Frankel is joined in the second interview by his wife, Miriam Frankel, and they discuss the difficulties of beginning a business and a family at the same time.

John E. Franz contrasts his studies in physical organic chemistry with his training in practical synthetic organic chemistry at Illinois. He also details his discovery of glyphosate, a natural plant growth inhibitor that forms the active ingredient in Roundup, an environmentally friendly herbicide that has become one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. He describes the aftereffects of his discovery-the reactions of Monsanto and other companies, and the steps involved in commercial production of Roundup. Franz then examines his later work to understand amine and phosphine compounds as well as plant growth inhibitors.

Manfred Frasch was born in Holzgerlingen, Germany. He had an early curiosity about how things work, leading him to chemistry and biology. He entered the University of Tübingen, where he studied biochemistry. His diploma thesis concerned gene regulation in Drosophila, which he continued to study through his career. Liking the projects and atmosphere of Tübingen, Frasch stayed for his PhD. He learned cloning techniques and decided to pursue genetic approaches. Wanting to see more of the world, he took a postdoc in Michael Levine's lab at Columbia University, working on the even-skipped gene. After a fellowship at the Max Planck Institute, he accepted a position at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, where he established his lab and is now a tenured professor.

After completing her BS in chemistry, Helen M. Free first researched assays of antibiotics before moving to dry reagent test systems. Working with tablets, Free helped develop tests to detect abnormal levels of bilirubin, glucose, ketone, and protein in urine. When Bayer Corporation acquired Miles Laboratories, Free stayed with the company, moving into the Growth and Development Department, then becoming Director of Specialty Test Systems. Free formally retired in 1982. She served as president of the American Chemical Society in 1993.

Dov Frohman discusses his career, starting with Graduate school in the US, his position at Fairchild, and his job at Intel. He proceeds to discuss the creation of Intel Israel and his role in the company.

Dr. Fuller enlivens the interview with recollections of Harkins and Julius Stieglitz. Appointment as a research chemist under R. R. Williams at Bell Laboratories introduces Calvin Fuller to the infant science of synthetic polymers and to x­ray crystallography. World War II sees Fuller in Washington, DC, heading polymer chemistry research as part of the synthetic rubber program. On return to Bell Laboratories after the war, Fuller decides to move to solid state chemistry and describes his work on semiconductors, leading to the development of the photovoltaic cell.

Jean H. Futrell was born in Grant Parish, Louisiana. He majored in chemical engineering at Louisiana Tech University, and also enrolled in the Air Force ROTC. Futrell attended the University of California at Berkeley for graduate school, where his thesis research was in radiation chemistry. He was introduced to mass spectrometry as an analytical technique, playing a vital role in Futrell’s research. After graduating, Futrell was a radiation chemist exploring applications of radiation processing of petroleum fractions. Required to complete his military service obligation, he was assigned to the Aerospace Research Laboratory and published more than twenty papers. Futrell accepted an appointment as Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah, influenced by the fundamental theory underlying mass. Futrell continued to build his own versions of spectrometers as unique research tools for exploring the frontiers of ion chemistry. In 1987 Futrell accepted the position of Department Head of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware. In 1998 Futrell was recruited by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to lead the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory as Director. In 2013 he retired and became the first Battelle Fellow Emeritus at PNNL.