Raymond F. Boyer

Born: February 6, 1910 | Denver, CO, US
Died: Tuesday, February 23, 1993 | Midland, MI, US

Raymond Boyer was born and raised in Ohio and he had an early interest in electricity. He received his undergraduate and graduate education at Case Institute of Technology. In discussing his career at the Dow Chemical Company, Boyer provides accounts of discoveries and innovations, especially involving polystyrene; several leading figures there, including Willard and H. H. Dow; and major organizational changes that occurred during his career. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0015
No. of pages: 57
Minutes: 242

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
14 January and 19 August 1986
Michigan Molecular Institute Midland, Michigan

Abstract of Interview

Raymond Boyer begins the interview with a brief description of his family, childhood, and school days in Ohio, touching on his early interest in electricity. He then tells of his undergraduate and graduate years at Case Institute of Technology, focusing on the influence of the faculty there. In discussing his career at the Dow Chemical Company, Boyer provides accounts of discoveries and innovations, especially involving polystyrene; several leading figures there, including Willard and H. H. Dow; and major organizational changes that occurred during his career. Concluding with a summary of his most recent research at the Michigan Molecular Institute, Boyer includes an interesting anecdote involving a Canadian chemist with the same name. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1933 Case Institute of Technology BS Astronomy
1935 Case Institute of Technology MS Physics

Professional Experience

Dow Chemical Company

1935 to 1945
Physicist, Physics Laboratory (Physical Research Laboratory)
1945
Group Leader, Physics Laboratory (Physical Research Laboratory)
1945 to 1948
Assistant Director,, Physics Laboratory (Physical Research Laboratory)
1948 to 1952
Director,, Physics Laboratory (Physical Research Laboratory)
1949 to 1952
Secretary, Executive Research Committee
1952 to 1969
Director of Plastics Reserach
1969 to 1972
Assistant Director, US Area Research and Development (Polymer Science)
1972 to 1975
Research Fellow

Michigan Molecular Institute

1975 to 1987
Research Professor and Affiliate Scientist

Honors

Year(s) Award
1955

Honorary DSc, Case Institute of Technology

1968

Gold Medal, Society of Plastics Engineers

1970

Borden Award in Organic Coatings and Plastics Chemistry, American Chemical Society

1972

Swinburne Gold Medal, Plastics Institute of Great Britain

1978

Member, National Academy of Engineering

1983

Best Papers Award, Midland Section, Sigma Xi

1991

Election to Plastics Hall of Fame, June 20, 1991, sponsored by the Society of the Plastics Industry, Washington, D. C.

Table of Contents

Family and Childhood
1

Thinks highly of his school teachers. Benefits from The Book of Knowledge. Works for father after school. Interest in electricity inspired by Edison's influence in Ohio and The Electrical Experimenter magazine.

Case Institute of Technology
3

Choice to attend is arbitrary. Begins in electrical engineering but soon switches to physics. Astronomy professor Nassau very influential—assists to find job and convinces to write bachelor's thesis in astronomy. Master's in physics.

The Dow Chemical Company
7

Nassau recruits. Goes through student training course, gaining exposure to many different departments. Begins work in X-ray crystallography department; moves to Grebe's group in Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) as expected. Britton's Organic Laboratory. Burned in explosion in carbon disulfide plant. Devises ASTM test for heat distortion of plastics. Develops technique for direct observation of polychlorostyrene single molecules. Travels a great deal during World War II to develop special cables. Becomes director of PRL. Contact with Willard Dow. Member of executive research committee. Direction of plastics research and development under Branch. Publishes article on dependence of transition temperatures on chemical structure in polymers. First exposure to styrene through light and heat sensitivity. Dissatisfied with new financially based management style. Becomes director of US Area Research and Development in Polymer Science and first Dow Research Fellow.

Michigan Molecular Institute
30

Research and writing flourishes. Lectures at Soviet and Polish Academies of Sciences.

"The Other Raymond Boyer"
36

Interesting experiences abroad due to existence of Canadian chemist with the same name.

Controversy over Order in Amorphous Polymers
39

Conflict with Flory, who maintains that amorphous polymers are free of order. Encourages continued experimental research on multiple transition behavior of atactic polystyrene and liquid-liquid transition and gelation. Despite disagreement, regards Flory as premier polymer scientist.

Notes
48
Index"
51

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.