Elizabeth Dyer

Born: May 10, 1906 | Haverill, MA, US
Died: November 25, 1995 | Hockessin, DE, US

Elizabeth Dyer's oral history covers her childhood and early interest in chemistry, as well as her graduate years at Harvard and long career at the University of Delaware. Additionally, she discusses how important teaching has been in her life and her work in polymers. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0060
No. of pages: 41
Minutes: 85

Interview Sessions

Herman Skolnik
13 October 1986
Hockessin, Delaware

Abstract of Interview

Elizabeth Dyer recounts her childhood in Haverill, Massachusetts and entering Mount Holyoke College at the age of seventeen. There she was influenced by two outstanding teachers, Louisa Stevenson and Dorothy Hahn, which led first to a major in chemistry, and then to the M.A. degree. It was at Mount Holyoke that Dyer had her first experience of teaching chemistry before she moved to Yale for PhD studies and later post-doctoral work, researching heterocyclic chemistry under the guidance of Treat B. Johnson. In 1933 Elizabeth Dyer accepted an instructorship at the Women's College, University of Delaware, where she was to remain for the rest of her career. She discusses her early years there before the merger of the Women's and Men's Colleges and recounts her sabbatical year working with George Barger at the University of Edinburgh. In 1943 she commenced her research studies in polymer chemistry, largely at the suggestion of the Armstrong Cork Company. She describes her linoleate copolymerization work and her later polyurethane studies. As a consequence of the new research initiative, Dyer set up courses in polymer chemistry, some of the earliest after the polymer program at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. In the final section of the interview Elizabeth Dyer reflects on her priorities as an academic and briefly discusses her retirement hobbies. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1927 Mount Holyoke College BA Chemistry
1929 Mount Holyoke College MA Chemistry
1931 Yale University PhD Chemistry
1933 Yale University Postdoctoral Fellowship

Professional Experience

University of Delaware

1933 to 1940
Instructor, Department of Chemistry
1940 to 1947
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
1947 to 1951
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry
1951 to 1971
Professor, Department of Chemistry
1971 to 1987
Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry


Year(s) Award

Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Delaware


Elizabeth Dyer Teaching Award established for graduate assistants in chemistry, University of Delaware

Table of Contents

Childhood and Pre-College Education

Growing up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in a settled family situation. Interests largely non-scientific.

Undergraduate Education and Master's Studies

Attends Mount Holyoke College and early comes under the influence of chemistry teachers there. Majors in chemistry and accepts a teaching assistantship to complete MA degree.

PhD and Postdoctorial Studies

Studies at Yale University under Treat B. Johnson. Discusses other faculty and colleagues at Yale.

Academic Career at the University of Delaware

Search for an academic post; early days at the Women's College, University of Delaware and merging with the Men's College. Sabbatical year in Scotland with George Barger. Start of independent research career and move into polymer chemistry. Initiation of courses in polymer chemistry at University of Delaware.

Retirement Activities, Personal Reflections on Career

Ornithology. Interaction with graduate students. Teaching Awards.


About the Interviewer

Herman Skolnik

Herman Skolnik received a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University, and a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. He joined Hercules, Inc., as a research chemist in 1942, and served as a divisional research manager from 1952 until his retirement in 1979. He was the founding editor of The Journal of Chemical Documentation, and has published over 200 papers and four books, including A Century of Chemistry, the centennial history of the American Chemical Society.