The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Sally Chapman's oral history begins with a discussion of her childhood in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area and her early aptitude in math. Chapman's interest in science was fostered both by her tinkerer" father and by the nationwide interest in innovative science education that occurred after Sputnik. She chose Smith College and, after some first-semester difficulties and courses in both physics and chemistry, Chapman found her love for chemistry. She worked for the Quaker Chemical Corporation, where she assisted technicians and experienced basic, day-to-day activities in a lab. Although her senior year thesis on calorimetry was an experimental nightmare, the project did provide her with computing experience and knowledge. Realizing she was not ready for graduate school as she completed undergraduate work at Smith, Chapman became a computer programmer at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York. After her stint in New York, Chapman decided to pursue graduate school; she chose Yale University, where she worked with Raymond Suplinskas on Hot Atom Chemistry. But at the end of Chapman's second year, Suplinskas left and the physical chemistry faculty at Yale was decimated. Chapman continued with her graduate work, providing much detail about this period of time in her studies, and benefited much from the work and assistance of John Tully and Richard Preston. At the end of her graduate study, she undertook two post-doctoral positions, learning about the practice of science from her advisors. After the post-doctoral positions, Chapman faced difficulties in the job market, including being interviewed only because she was a woman, and not because she had any chance to get the job. This made her think about and reflect upon her experiences as an undergraduate tutor in Mississippi and her other experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. The interview concludes with Chapman's beliefs about the atmosphere at Yale for women, along with a discussion of the trajectory of numbers of women faculty at other universities. She recounts her impressions of the factors that went into her hiring at Barnard College: the role of Bernice, Segal, the woman who hired her; the close relationship between Barnard and Columbia University, especially between the chemistry departments; and Barnard's status as an undergraduate university. In addition, Chapman talks about her work in the community of women in chemistry, which has included the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists (COACh), advising and mentoring students, and various other activities to strengthen the community of women in science.
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Berkeley
|1970 to 1973||
NSF Predoctoral Fellow
|1978 to 1980||
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow
AWIS Metro-NY: Outstanding Woman Scientist
Table of Contents
Growing up in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. Early education and aptitude in math. High school interest in science. Family's role in education.
Entrance into Smith College. Decision to study chemistry. Influential professors. Test-taking techniques. Laboratory work at Quaker Chemical Corporation. Work on senior thesis, instruments, and computers. Thoughts on the chemistry students and faculty.
Work with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as a computer programmer. Decision to go to graduate school at Yale University. Difficulties with graduate study and hot atom work. University of California, Berkeley post-doctorate with Bill Miller. University of California, Irvine post-doctorate with Don Bunker.
Difficulties with job search as a woman in science. Interviews and decision to go to Barnard College. Teaching students in Mississippi for a summer. Life at Yale for a woman. The numbers of female faculty in the past and at present. The influence of Bernice Segal.
The history of Barnard's relationship with Columbia University. The chemistry departments at Barnard and Columbia. New professors and the interview process. Teaching and research at an undergraduate university.
Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists: beginnings and current work. The status of the community of women chemists. Mentoring.
About the Interviewer
Hilary Domush was a Program Associate in the Center for Oral History at CHF from 2007–2015. Previously, she earned a BS in chemistry from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2003. She then completed an MS in chemistry and an MA in history of science both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her graduate work in the history of science focused on early nineteenth-century chemistry in the city of Edinburgh, while her work in the chemistry was in a total synthesis laboratory. At CHF, she worked on projects such as the Pew Biomedical Scholars, Women in Chemistry, Atmospheric Science, and Catalysis.