John D. Baldeschwieler
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
John D. Baldeschwieler begins the interview with a discussion of his family and childhood interests. He was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 14 November 1933. He attended a public school in Cranford, New Jersey, before moving on to college at Cornell University, where he majored in chemical engineering. Baldeschwieler found the chemical engineering program challenging, but despite the 80 percent dropout rate for the program, he graduated at the top of his class. Afterwards, he attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his PhD in physical chemistry in 1959. Baldeschwieler had been in the ROTC program at Cornell University, but his service in the Army was deferred after he graduated because of an abundance of officers in the Army at that time; however, he was in the Army Reserves while he attended Berkeley. It was while at Berkeley that Baldeschwieler was introduced to infrared spectroscopy. Having served in the military, Baldeschwieler was hired as a chemistry lecturer and instructor at Harvard University. He became an assistant professor in 1962, and remained at the University until 1965, when he moved to Stanford University. Though he had been working in the field of nuclear-magnetic resonance at Cornell, Baldeschwieler decided to change his focus to ion-cyclotron resonance when he moved to Stanford. He became a full professor at Stanford in 1967, and remained with the University until 1971. From 1971 to 1984, Baldeschwieler worked in various important government positions, including the deputy director position for the Office of Science and Technology, and the coordinator position for the Chemical Catalysis Program in the U.S.–U.S.S.R. Commission on Science and Technology. Baldeschwieler began his relationship with Caltech during that time period as well. In 1973, he became chairman of Caltech's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, and a full professor at the Institute. In 1981, Baldeschwieler undertook his first commercial endeavor with the creation of Vestar, Inc. Thus began his work on a string of entrepreneurial ventures, which has included Combion, Inc., Epic Therapeutics, Inc., GeneSoft, Inc., and many others. In 1999 and 2000, Baldeschwieler was responsible in part for the creation of the Athenaeum Fund and Pasadena Entretec; two organizations established to fund and support young entrepreneurs from Caltech. Baldeschwieler concludes the interview with his thoughts on entrepreneurship and his experiences in the business world.
|1956||Cornell University||BS||Chemical Engineering|
|1959||University of California, Berkeley||PhD||Physical Chemistry|
Office of Science and Technology
US–USSR Commission on Science and Technology
California Institute of Technology
Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China
NeXstar Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Epic Therapeutics Inc.
Drug Royalty Inc.
The Athenaeum Fund
|1962 to 1965||
Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship
Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society
Fresenius Award of Phi Lambda Upsilon
National Academy of Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Philosophical Society
Richard C. Tolman Medal, American Chemical Society
William H. Nichols Medal, American Chemical Society
National Medal of Science
Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society
Othmer Gold Medal, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Table of Contents
Father’s and mother’s origins. Childhood interest in science and mechanics. Attending Cornell University. Father’s role in World War II. Interest in War research. Nuclear research at Los Alamos National Research Laboratory. Attending the University of California at Berkeley. Sputnik’s influence on academic research. Infrared spectrometry at Berkeley. PhD thesis work.
Working in the Ballistic Research lab at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Joining the Harvard University faculty. Elias J. Corey. Receiving NIH funding for his double-resonance experiment. Robert B. Woodward. Ways to obtain NSF and NIH funding. William G. McMillan. Attending the seminars for young researchers.
Moving to Stanford. Fourier transform NMR and pulse-NMR experiments. Deciding that NMR had reached its limits. Performing cyclotron experiments at Stanford. Getting a contract from NASA. Teaching at Harvard. Reasons for his interest in ICR. ICR within the context of mass spectrometry. The Omegatron. Collaborative work with Varian Associates, Inc. Jay Henis. Industrial consulting for Monsanto. Working with Merck. Working with Carl Djerassi.
Assessing American tactics in Vietnam. The people sniffer. Tunnel detection with ground-penetrating radar. Working on PSAC. Working with the U. S. Navy Riverine Forces. The Hamlet Pacification Index. Reflections on the Vietnam War's results.
Lee A. DuBridge. The usefulness of PSAC. Working under various U.S presidents. The creation of the NEPA and the EPA. The politics of supersonic transport. Working on national security committees. Experimenting with radioisotopes at Stanford. Science in the Nixon administration. The “Berlin Wall.” Working for NIH. The War on Cancer and the expansion of the National Cancer Institute. Work with China and the USSR.
T. Y. Shen. Work with liposomes. Building an angular-correlation instrument. Implanting tumors in mice for liposome tests. The creation of Vestar, Inc. H. S. Tsien’s funding of Vestar. E. M. Warburg Pincus & Company. The downside of working with venture capitalists. Cancer imaging. Jill Alder’s anti-fungal work. NeXstar, Inc. QuanScan, Inc. Affymetrix, Inc. Vestink and DNA chips. Combion, Inc. Pasadena Entretec and UCSD CONNECT for new entrepreneurs. Working as an advisor on various government committees. The Science and Technology Board.
The differing structures of advisory boards. The US government’s apathy towards foreign-oil dependence. Why advisory committees succeed or fail. Gulf War Syndrome. How QuanScan was formed. The Cryopharm Corporation and freeze-drying blood. The story of Combion. The Drug Royalty Company. GeneSoft, Inc. Working with the venture capital community. Language Weaver, Inc. The significance of the Department of Homeland Security. The anti-terrorism panel. Winning the ACS Award.
About the Interviewer
Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.
David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.
In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.