Frank J. Biondi
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
This interview discusses Frank J. Biondi's education, career, and involvement in The Electrochemical Society, beginning with college experiences as a chemical engineering major at Lehigh University and initial work at Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL). Biondi describes his position within the structure of BTL in the 1930s and reasons for his pursuit of graduate education at Columbia University. After completing his master's degree in chemical engineering, he enrolled in the PhD program and became involved in the Manhattan Project. Biondi worked on a gaseous diffusion program to separate uranium 235 from uranium ore, designing the diffusion barrier used for the atom bomb. Biondi describes the reasons for Union Carbide's appropriation of his barrier's design and related patent applications and process details, and the subsequent manufacture of large amounts of barrier. After making his contribution to the Manhattan Project, Biondi returned to BTL work and focused on electronics, initially developing long-life cathodes used by the British during the war. He continued cathode work, becoming involved with the ASTM to standardize three nickel alloys for electronics industry electron tube cathodes. Biondi describes his rise through various BTL departments, his entry into transistor work, and associations with The ECS, which began in an effort to assure BTL metallurgists designing semiconductor devices an outlet for publishing and presenting their work. After touching on solid-state activity and descriptions of new electrochemical processes in ECS publications, the interview returns to Biondi's BTL career progress, particularly his work on transistors. As Biondi reviews his later career, he discusses fuel cell work, relationships with N. Bruce Hannay and R. M. Burns, the electronics industry's first dust-free white room, semiconductor work for satellites, and improvements in battery manufacture and design. The interview closes with comments on the effects of changes related to AT&T and Lucent Technologies, the future of The ECS, and consulting work since retirement from BTL.
|1936||Lehigh University||BS, with honors||Chemical Engineering|
|1940||Columbia University||MS||Chemical Engineering|
|Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York||Chemical Engineering (from 1940-1942)|
US Army Corps of Engineers
Bell Telephone Laboratories
Bond Engineering, Inc.
Certificate, US War Department, Army Service Forces/Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District, in appreciation for work essential to the production of the Atom Bomb
Award for Chemical Engineering Achievement, Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
Table of Contents
BS in chemical engineering from Lehigh University. Summer job and subsequent full time position at Bell Telephone Laboratories. MS in chemical engineering from Columbia University.
Recruitment for the Manhattan Project at Columbia while working towards a PhD. Development of the gaseous diffusion barrier. Appropriation of Biondi's gaseous diffusion barrier by Foster Nix, then Union Carbide. Medal for work on the atomic bomb presented by US Secretary of War.
Improvement of magnetrons for wartime defense of England. Industry-wide specifications for materials used in the production of electron tubes written with the American Society for Testing and Materials. Family and community life. Promotion to supervisor. Development of transistors. Papers on semiconductor processes published through The Electrochemical Society (ECS). Creation of solid state activity in ECS. Installation of electronics industry's first white room.
Promotion to department head and laboratory director. Introduction of gold-plating of telephone connector wires. Development of hepafilters used in the production of transistors. Use of hepafilter room in hospitals. Institution of environmental protection policies. Consulting work with fuel cells for NASA's Gemini and Apollo space programs. Discovery of penicillin while creosoting wood.
Prediction of increased use of ionized gases and clean rooms. Discussion of Telstar I satellite and atomic bomb. Effect of changes with AT&T on Bell Labs. The future role of The ECS in the electronics business. Discussion of other scientific societies. Design and production of batteries for Bell Labs. Post Bell Labs consulting work.
About the Interviewer
Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.