Browse Oral Histories Alphabetically

James D. Idol discusses his early interest in chemistry and decision to pursue chemistry in higher education, which led to a position with Standard Oil of Ohio. Idol pioneered an economically advantageous process for the production of acrylonitrile and played a role in the commercialization of the process. Idol moved on to Ashland Chemical Company, where he developed the propylene-CO process for methyl methacrylate, and in 1988 became a professor at Rutgers University.

Enrique Iglesia was born in Havana, Cuba; his family then moved to Mexico, where they lived for six months while awaiting papers to enter the United States. Iglesia matriculated at Princeton University intending to major in chemical engineering; he had summer internships at Exxon, after which he became interested in catalysis. He chose Stanford for his PhD and began research in Michel Boudart's group, working on the applicability of model systems to real-world catalysis. After he completed his degree, he accepted a job offer from Exxon and soon advanced to the position of section head, supervising about fifty scientists and support staff. Ready to return to academia he accepted University of California, Berkeley's offer; he also became a consultant to Catalytic Associates. Iglesia participated in a BP-organized collaboration of scientists from Caltech and Berkeley, called Methane Conversion Cooperative, which lasted ten years. Since then he has started a new, smaller, group, the X Conversion Cooperative, which has reached its fifth year. In recent years, Iglesia's group has been working on Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, as well as other reactions of C 1 molecules, such as carbonylation and tripane synthesis. In addition, Chevron Corporation has been funding research into zeolites, which the Cooperative has learned to form around a precursor and van der Waals interactions and he has been co-editor in chief of the Journal of Catalysis.

Kazuo Inamori was born in 1932 in Kagoshima, Japan, one of seven children. During elementary school, he was a very spirited child who loved science and also showed an interest in the machines that were in his father's printing shop. He enrolled at Kagoshima University, where he majored in organic chemistry. After graduating, he worked at at Shofu Industries, where he developed fosterite to serve as an insulator for high frequency radio waves and invented the electric tunnel kiln. In 1959, together with seven other colleagues, Inamori established Kyoto Ceramic, which later became known as Kyocera. Inamori quickly secured a contract from Matsushita Electronics Industries (now Panasonic), and then with Fairchild Semiconductor, which placed orders for silicon transistor headers. Kyocera greatly contributed to the development of the US semiconductor industry. To avoid dependence on the semiconductor market, Inamori diversified Kyocera, turning to the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, cutting tools, and bioceramics; later, he moved Kyocera into other areas-especially the manufacture of electronic information equipment, e. g. laptops, peripheral equipment, and telecommunications equipment. Inamori established DDI Corporation (Daini Denden) to compete against NTT (Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation). In 2000 DDI merged with KDD (Kokusai Denshin Denwa) and IDO (Nippn Idou Tsushin Corporation, which had been started by Toyota), to form KDDI, which today is the second largest comprehensive telecommunications company in Japan. In 1984 Inamori also established the Inamori Foundation, which awards the annual Kyoto Prize, honoring those who have made extraordinary contributions to science, civilization, and the spirituality of humankind.