The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Manson Benedict begins the interview with a discussion of his family background, including the highlights of his father's career in chemistry. He recalls how his early enthusiasm for chemistry was promoted both by his father's work and his summer jobs with Calumet and Hecla Copper Company. He then tells of his dissatisfaction with his Cornell University education, his year at National Aniline, and his decision to enroll at the University of Chicago to obtain a broader liberal education during which he explored economics and socialism. After a colorful description of a summer's work on a fruit farm in Washington state, Benedict describes his enrollment in a graduate physical chemistry program at MIT. He then discusses his National Research Fellowship at Harvard and his decision to work at Kellogg, where he developed the Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation. He describes his significant role in the Manhattan Project, and touches on his subsequent appointment to the Atomic Energy Commission. He concludes with his return to MIT to develop a nuclear engineering curriculum, the accomplishment of which he is most proud.
|1932||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||MS||Physical Chemistry|
|1935||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||PhD||Physical Chemistry|
National Aniline and Chemical Co.
M. W. Kellogg Company
Hydrocarbon Research Inc.
Atomic Energy Commission
National Research Corporation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Burns and Roe, Inc.
William H. Walker Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Robert E. Wilson Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Arthur Holly Compton Award, American Nuclear Society
Enrico Fermi Award, U. S. Atomic Energy Commission
John Fritz Medal, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
National Medal of Science
Founders Award, National Academy of Engineering
Glenn Seaborg Award, International Platform Association
Table of Contents
Parents attend Cornell University. Father discovers process for copper extraction. Exposure to chemistry through summer jobs at Calumet and Hecla Copper Company.
Enrolls in academically limited chemistry program. Frustrated by research supervisor's inflexibility. Summer jobs at Camulet and Hecla.
Works on the nitro and indigo benches. The Great Depression heightens realization that he lacks a liberal arts education to deal with social problems.
Enrolls in philosophy program with hope to discover a personal philosophy. Studies literature, economics, and other disciplines which he finds useful later in life. Takes advantage of Chicago's cultural offerings. Makes several close friends. Explores socialism and union organizing. Hitchhikes to Washington to work for a summer on a friend's family's fruit farm while resolving indecision over his career path.
Enrolls in graduate program in physical chemistry. Works on temperature measurement methods. Marries a fellow physical chemist.
Receives National Research Fellowship. Wife receives PhD and works at Harvard Medical School. Studies PVT properties of nitrogen and argon. Appointed to the Harvard Committee on Geophysical Research to study solubility relations of aqueous solutions at high temperatures.
Studies kinetics of oxidation of benzene to maleic anhydride.
Develops Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation of state for gases and continuous flow calorimeter. Works on separation of hydrogen from gas mixtures.
Works for Kellex, a subsidiary of Kellogg, as head of process development. Charged with developing gaseous diffusion cascade and designing a plant for separating uranium at Oak Ridge. Also involved in building and operating the plant.
When the war ends, decides to remain with colleagues from Oak Ridge rather than return to a more limited position at Kellogg. Obtains patents for mass diffusion and gas absorption. Works on extraction of deuterium.
Member of the Reactor Safeguard Committee. Connections lead to return to MIT.
Organizes nuclear engineering courses within chemical engineering department. Separate nuclear engineering department is established. Serves as department head for thirteen years. Opportunities for graduates expand as time progresses. Works on General Advisory Committee of Atomic Energy Commission. Wishes to be remembered for his role in educating others.
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.