Philip E. Eaton
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Philip Eaton begins the interview with a description of his childhood, parents, and early education in Brooklyn, New York. At age seven, Eaton and his family relocated to Budd Lake, New Jersey, where he attended Roxbury Grammar School and later Roxbury High School. Eaton displayed a great interest in science during his high-school years, and his parents’ and teachers’ encouragement strengthened his desire to major in chemistry. He attended Princeton University, receiving his BA in 1957. After graduating from Princeton, Eaton attended Harvard University for both his MA and PhD degrees. While at Princeton and Harvard, Eaton worked during the summers at Allied Chemical, where his group leader, Everett Gilbert, had a profound effect on his career. There, he first became involved with cage chemistry, specifically Kepone. In his final years as a graduate student at Harvard, Eaton accepted a postdoctoral assistant professorship at the University of California, Berkeley. There he taught introductory organic chemistry with Melvin Calvin. In 1962, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, where he remains a professor today. Shortly after his arrival at Chicago, Eaton began researching chlorocarbon compounds, which led him to cubane synthesis. With the assistance of his postdocs, Eaton synthesized on several other cubane-based compounds. Other projects included photochemistry work and dodecahedrane synthesis. Eaton’s students praised his teaching methods and his dedication to excellence in education. His research accomplishments have earned him several awards, including the Humboldt Award and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. Eaton concludes the interview with a discussion on the future or scientific research, maintaining excellence in chemistry education and research, and thoughts on his wife, Phyllis.
University of California, Berkeley
University of Chicago
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
National Institutes of Health
Dow Chemical Company
DAS Group, Inc.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow
Research Award, Rohm and Haas Company
Alexander von Humboldt Prize
Alan Berman Research Publication Award, Naval Research Laboratory, U. S. Navy
Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society
Table of Contents
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and Budd Lake, New Jersey. Early interest in science. Encouragement of teachers and parents. Decision to attend Princeton.
Research work at Princeton. Kepone. Working with Peter Yates. NMR work. Working at Allied Chemical. Attending graduate school at Harvard. Assistant professorship at University of California, Berkeley. Teaching with Melvin Calvin.
Leaving University of California for the University of Chicago. Michael J. S. Dewar. Quadrupole spectroscopy. Cage compounds. Cubane research and synthesis. Thomas W. Cole, Jr.
Propellane molecules. PhD and postdoc assistants. Dodecahedrane. Horst Prinzbach and Leo Paquette syntheses.
Interaction with students. Research excellence. Education opportunities outside of the classroom. Setting high standards. Teaching methods. Winning Humboldt Award. Research funding.
Future of chemical discoveries. Research and development costs and support. Phyllis Eaton. Good science versus bad science.
About the Interviewer
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.