Fred Basolo

Born: February 11, 1920 | Coello, IL, US
Died: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 | Skokie, IL, US

Fred Basolo begins this interview by discussing his childhood in Coello, Illinois, and his elementary and high school education. He attended Southern Illinois University where he studied to be a chemistry teacher but his instructors encouraged him to attend graduate school in chemistry. At University of Illinois, he studied inorganic chemistry with John Bailar. After receiving his PhD, he worked at Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia for three years. He decided to return to academia and accepted a positions as professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. His research interests have included kinetics and mechanisms, and metal carbonyls. Basolo describes the connections he made with Italian scientists and his American Chemical Society presidency and concludes by offering his opinion of how general and inorganic chemistry courses should be taught. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0091
No. of pages: 101
Minutes: 174

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
1 March 1991
Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois

Abstract of Interview

Fred Basolo begins this interview by discussing his childhood in Coello, Illinois, and his elementary and high school education. He attended Southern Illinois University where he studied to be a chemistry teacher but his instructors encouraged him to attend graduate school in chemistry. At University of Illinois, he studied inorganic chemistry with John Bailar. After receiving his PhD, he worked at Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia for three years. He decided to return to academia and accepted a positions as professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. His research interests have included kinetics and mechanisms, and metal carbonyls. Basolo describes the connections he made with Italian scientists and his American Chemical Society presidency and concludes by offering his opinion of how general and inorganic chemistry courses should be taught. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1940 Southern Illinois University B Ed
1942 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign MS Inorganic Chemistry
1943 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign PhD Inorganic Chemistry (mentor: John C. Bailar, Jr.)

Professional Experience

Rohm and Haas

1943 to 1946
Research Chemist

Northwestern University

1946 to 1948
Instructor, Chemistry Department
1948 to 1953
Assistant Professor, Chemistry Department
1953 to 1959
Associate Professor, Chemistry Department
1959 to 1980
Professor, Chemistry Department
1969 to 1972
Chairman of the Department, Chemistry Department
1980 to 1990
Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor, Chemistry Department
1990
Emeritus Morrison Professor, Chemistry Department

Honors

Year(s) Award
1954 to 1955

Guggenheim Fellow, University of Copenhagen

1961 to 1962

Senior NSF Fellow, University of Rome

1964

Award for Research in Inorganic Chemistry, American Chemical Society (ACS)

1969

NATO Distinguished Professor, Technische Universität München

1971

North Regional Section Citation of Excellence, ACS

1972

John C. Bailar, Jr. Medal, University of Illinois

1974

Alumni Achievement Award, Southern Illinois University

1975

Award for Distinguished Service in Inorganic Chemistry, ACS

1976

Francis Patrick Dwyer Medal, University of New South Wales, Australia

1977

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

1977

Honorary Member, Phi Lambda Upsilon

1979

Fellow, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science

1979

Member, National Academy of Sciences

1981

Honorary Member, Italian Chemical Society

1981

James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry, Northeastern Section, ACS

1983

President, ACS

1983

Oesper Memorial Award, ACS, Cincinnati Section

1983

Corresponding Member, Chemical Society of Peru

1983

Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1984

D. Sc. (honorary), Southern Illinois University

1985

Honorary Professor, Lanzhou University, China

1987

Foreign Member, National Academy of Science, Italy

1988

Laurea honoris causa, University of Turin

1988

IX Century Medal, Bologna University

1988

Award for Research in Inorganic Chemistry, Italian Chemical Society

1988

Honorary Professor, Zhongshan University, China

1990

Harry and Carol Mosher Award, ACS, Santa Clara Valley

1991

Padova University Medal

1991

Distincion Bicentenaria, University of Los Andes in Merida

1991

Chinese Chemical Society Medal

1992

Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists

1992

Sigma Xi Monie A. Ferst Award

1992

Humboldt Senior US Scientist Award

1993

Gold Medal Award, American Institute of Chemists

1996

First Lecturer and Medalist of the Royal Society of Chemistry Joseph Chatt Award

1996

Josiah Williard Gibbs Medal

1996

Member, Chemistry Department Hall of Fame, Southern Illinois University

1997

Laurea honoris causa, University of Palermo, Sacconi Memorial Lecture

Table of Contents

Family Background
1

Born in coal mining town, Coello, Illinois. Parents become US citizens. Brother and sister. Affect of the Depression on family.

Early Education
2

Elementary school. Influence of high school teacher on decision to go to college. Public Works Administration youth program provides college tuition. High school science and laboratory experiments.

Southern Illinois University
3

Studies to be a high school teacher. Influence of professors. Chemistry courses, textbooks, and laboratory work. Fellow students.

University of Illinois
7

Passes German and French exams. Chemistry instructors. Studies inorganic chemistry with John Bailar. Laboratory instruments. Early research and publications.

Rohm and Haas
13

Impression of Philadelphia. Works on mica project and synthesis of zirconium compounds. Decides to return to academia.

Northwestern University
16

Small number of graduate students in chemistry department. Colleagues. Gets first graduate student. Works on solution kinetics and mechanisms. Collaboration with Ralph Pearson. Disagreement with Christopher Ingold.

Guggenheim Fellowship in Copenhagen
23

Introduced to crystal field theory. Attends international conference on coordination chemistry and meets Walter Hieber. Begins work with metal carbonyls. Collaborates with Arthur Adamson.

Return to Northwestern
29

Inorganic chemistry graduate students. Makes connections with Italian scientists. Helps Luigi Sacconi publish papers in English journals. Reasons for not getting involved with photochemistry. Interaction among unversity departments. Return to carbonyl work.

American Chemical Society Presidency
41

Proposes term limits for committee appointees. Insists on one national meeting. Wants to reduce number of committees. Academic/industrial interface. Represents ACS at Priestley anniversary.

Other Activities
48

Involvement with Beckman Center funding. Opinion on how general and inorganic chemistry should be taught.

Notes
53
Index
56

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.