Orlando A. Battista
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
O. A. Battista begins the interview by describing his childhood in Cornwall, Canada, as one of eight siblings born to a poor, uneducated laborer and a housewife. Battista proudly details his family's hard-working nature and the many professional accomplishments of his brothers, who include a chemist and company president and a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Attending McGill University along with his younger brother, Battista earned a BS in chemistry while supporting his household by writing epigrams for the Saturday Evening Post. Upon graduation Battista obtained a research chemist position at American Viscose Corporation, which was owned by Courtaulds, Canada, where his brother was well established and later became president. He worked on the rubber program and other war-related projects until the end of the war, when he married Helen Keffer and began inventing successful commercial products. Later, his work at American Viscose and its predecessor FMC earned him over sixty-five patents, including patents on viscose molding, novel yarn, pure cellulose, and microcrystalline collagen. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Battista wrote and published several works, including technical scientific texts, popular magazine articles on chemistry, a “human interest” chemistry text, an examination of the potential of psychopharmaceuticals, and several popular non-scientific collections. In the early 1960s, Battista realized the medical applications of microcrystalline collagen and obtained pharmaceutical backing from Alcon to license the substance as the patented hemostat Avitene. American Viscose and Alcon formed Avicon, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, and appointed Battista vice president for science and technology; Avicon obtained FDA approval for Avitene Hemostat, which today is used worldwide in hospital operating rooms. In 1974 Battista took early retirement from Avicon to start his own research institute and promote an Olympiad of Science that encourages and facilitates new product innovations. His institute created over fifty-five new products and publishes Knowledge Magazine.
|1940||McGill University||BSc (First Class Honors)||Chemistry|
American Viscose Corporation
Research Services Corporation
O.A. Battista Research Institute
University of Texas at Arlington
World Olympiads of Knowledge
American Institute Chemists
Doctor of Science, honoris causa, St. Vincent College
Fellow, National Association of Science Writers
Honor Scroll Award, New Jersey Chapter, American Institute of Chemists
Honor Scroll Award, Philadelphia Chapter, American Institute of Chemists
Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences
Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement
Boss of the Year, National Secretaries Association
James T. Grady Award, American Chemical Society
|1977 to 1979||
President and Chief Executive Officer, American Institute of Chemists
Lifetime Fellow, National Association of Science Writers
Creative Invention Medal, American Chemical Society
Special Mention, Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Anselme Payen Medal, American Chemical Society
Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Clarkson University
Napoleon Hill Gold Medal for Creative Achievement
Applied Polymer Science Medal, American Chemical Society
Table of Contents
Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, seventh of eight siblings. Parents had immigrated from Italy. Family values, hard work and education. Childhood jobs, effects of Depression on family.
Catholic elementary school, Cornwall Collegiate Institute (high school). Influence of high school teachers. Brothers' professional successes. Influence of brothers' interest in science. Childhood writing and inventions.
Writing epigrams for Saturday Evening Post. Influence of Professors. Development of Infinitron Theory. Chemistry courses, lab work, honors courses. Lab assistantship at Pulp and Paper Institute.
Position at American Viscose in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Impressions of Philadelphia area. Wife. First assignments in war-related projects. Cellulose chemistry work, early patents, first papers. Invention of microcrystalline cellulose; opposition to his novel ideas. FMC buyout of American Viscose; closing of Marcus Hook plant.
Transfer to Central Research Department, Princeton, New Jersey, and assistant director appointment. Non-scientific books for Prentice-Hall and books on polymers, general chemistry, and mental drugs. Development of Avitene Microcrystalline Collagen for use as hemostat. Creation of Avicon by FMC and Alcon to develop and market Avitene.
Move to Fort Worth, Texas, and appointment as vice president for science and technology. Clinical work on Avitene to meet FDA requirements. ACS Grady Award for writing. Promotion of competitive Olympiads of Science at ACS awards and after; support from H. Urey, H. Mark, and W. C. Stone. Knowledge Magazine. Decision to take early retirement.
Prototype for Olympiads of Science Institutes. Consulting projects, staff. New products with commercial value; trademarks.
American Institute of Chemists. Songwriting and ASCAP membership. Olympiads of Knowledge. Views of chemistry, creativity, innovation, and organizational politics.
About the Interviewer
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.