Herbert S. Eleuterio

Born: November 23, 1927 | New Bedford, MA, US
Photograph of Herbert S. Eleuterio

Hubert Eleuterio's oral history describes his interest in science from an early age, and the events that led him to go to graduate school for Chemistry. He chronicles his long career at DuPont in Delaware, his work with the Atomic Energy Commission, and his activities after his retirement.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0192
No. of pages: 43
Minutes: 185

Interview Sessions

James G. Traynham
25 February 2000
Wilmington, Delaware

Abstract of Interview

Herbert Eleuterio was born in 1927 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His parents had emigrated from the Azores, and he spoke no English until he began first grade. His interest in science was sparked by a middle-school biology teacher, and he decided to pursue chemistry after a customer on his paper route gave him a book on organic chemistry. He attended Tufts University, where he was positively influenced by his calculus teacher. He nearly went to graduate school for math, but the dim employment prospects for mathematicians led him to choose chemistry instead.  Eleuterio received his PhD from Michigan State, and married shortly after. He spent a year as a post-doc at Ohio State, then took a job at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. He was assigned polymer work even though he had no formal polymer background, and he was immediately very successful. His work there included propylene polymerization, olefin catalysis, olefin metathesis, and fluoro polymers, especially high-performance lubricants such as hexafluoropropylene oxide [HFPO]. Eleuterio also became interested in the theory and practice of knowledge creation and knowledge management through his work in exploratory chemistry at DuPont. He spent much of his later career discussing his concept of “degrees of freedom” and its relationship to scientific creativity.  He was also a major proponent of creative teamwork in the laboratory. During his tenure with the Atomic Energy Division, which functioned mostly in South Carolina, he helped to create the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina in Aiken. Eleuterio’s final project at DuPont was globalizing corporate R&D. After his retirement from DuPont in 1992, he began teaching part of every year at the National University of Singapore in the engineering and business programs. He also started the Process Analysis and Optimization Enterprise, which evolved into the Center for Process Engineering, in order to build links between industry and academia in Singapore. Eleuterio concludes the interview with a discussion of his family.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1949 Tufts University BS Chemistry
1953 Michigan State University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

1954 to 1959
Research Chemistry, Polychemicals Department
1959 to 1963
Research Manager, Industrial and Biochemicals Department
1963 to 1968
Division Head, Experimental Station, Explosives Department
1972 to 1973
Director, Experimental Station, Explosives Department
1973 to 1976
Assistant Research Director, Polymer Intermediates
1976 to 1977
Production Manager, Nylon Intermediates, Petrochemicals Department
1977 to 1985
Director, Research and Development Division, Petrochemicals Department
1985 to 1989
Technical Director, Atomic Energy Division, Petrochemicals Department
1989 to 1992
Director, New Technology Studies

National University of Singapore

1993 to 2001
Visiting Professor


Year(s) Award

Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists


Technical Excellence Award, DuPont Fellows Pederson Award


Carothers Award, American Chemical Society


Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement


Singapore's NSTB Medal

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Education

Growing up in Massachusetts. Parents and cultural background. Early education. Choice of undergraduate college.

Higher Education

Undergraduate education at Tufts University. Important influences. Graduate school at Michigan State. Marriage. Starting a family. Post-doc at Ohio State. Looking for employment in industry.

Early Career

Achievements in chemistry. Research interests. Joining DuPont. Ziegler catalysis. Study of scientific creativity. Interest in chemical models. Polyhexafluoropropylene. HFPO.

Later Career

Knowledge management. Creation of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Globalizing DuPont's corporate R&D. Teaching at the National University of Singapore. Environmental concern. Role of future chemists.


Family. Final thoughts.


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.