David R. Bryant

Born: May 8, 1936 | Greensboro, NC, US

David R. Bryant was one of seven children and grew up in North Carolina. He began working at age ten, and held various jobs until he earned a scholarship to Wake Forest University. Influenced by his high school science teacher, Bryant double-majored in chemistry and math. After receiving his BS in 1958, Bryant decided to attend graduate school at Duke University. Focusing on organic chemistry, he worked on the conversion of organic compounds into dianions under Charlie Hauser. Bryant earned his PhD in 1961 and immediately took a job with Union Carbide Corporation. He worked on developing a method of producing vinyl acetate without halide, and later worked with benzyl acetate, acrylic acid, and rhodium triphenylphosphite in the Oxo process. 

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0169
No. of pages: 50
Minutes: 221

Interview Sessions

James G. Traynham
8 April 1998
South Charleston, West Virginia

Abstract of Interview

David Bryant begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood. Bryant grew up in North Carolina as one of seven children. He began working at age ten, and held various jobs until he earned a scholarship to Wake Forest University. Influenced by his high school science teacher, Bryant double-majored in chemistry and math. While at Wake Forest, he became a lab assistant, and conducted some synthetic research. After receiving his BS in 1958, Bryant decided to attend graduate school at Duke University. Focusing on organic chemistry, he worked on the conversion of organic compounds into dianions under Charlie Hauser. Bryant earned his PhD in 1961 and immediately took a job with Union Carbide Corporation. He worked on developing a method of producing vinyl acetate without halide, and later worked with benzyl acetate, acrylic acid, and rhodium triphenylphosphite in the Oxo process. In the 1970s, Bryant became involved in the scientific side of intellectual property disputes for Union Carbide. Bryant concludes the interview with comments on the nature of industrial research and development, the difficulties of government regulation, and his approaching retirement in 2000. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1958 Wake Forest University BS Chemistry and Mathematics
1961 Duke University PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Union Carbide Corporation

1961 to 1967
Senior Chemist
1967 to 1975
Research Scientist
1975 to 1979
Senior Research Scientist
1984 to 1987
Corporate Fellow
1987 to 1999
Senior Corporate Fellow

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989

Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists

1990

Honorary DSc, Wake Forest University

1992

Industrial Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society

1993

Carothers Award

1998

Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

Table of Contents

Family Background and Early Years
1

Growing up in North Carolina. Siblings. Working at age ten. Influence of Arnold Bolen. Decision to pursue chemistry.

College Years
4

Scholarship to Wake Forest University. Double major in chemistry and math. Working as a lab assistant. Research without advanced instrumentation. Graduate school in organic chemistry at Duke University. National Science Foundation fellowship. Minor in physics. Dianion research.

Union Carbide
12

Recruitment. Decision to take job at Union Carbide. Assigned projects. Work on vinyl acetate process. Research on rhodium. Acrylic acid work. Selection as technical witness in lawsuit. Participation in intellectual property disputes.

Oxo Process
23

Importance to Union Carbide. Presentation of technology. Rhodium triphenylphosphine catalyst. Propylene hydroformylation. Phosphite chemistry.

Research and Development
30

Fundamental research in an industrial setting. Importance of continuing education. Strategies in experimentation. Scientific innovation. Emphasis on teamwork. Difficulties of regulation.

Conclusion
36

Retirement in 2000. Winning the Perkin Medal. Family.

Notes
44
Index
45

About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.