The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Norman Hackerman begins the interview by describing his childhood and the public education system in Baltimore, Maryland, noting the rigorous course work and individual attention students received at City College High School. He then recounts his seven years at Johns Hopkins University, where he received both his bachelor's and PhD degrees and developed interests in philosophy and psychology as well as in physical chemistry. He recalls the different labs in which he worked before his commitment to work in Patrick's lab on silica gel studies. Hackerman remarks upon the difficulties the university encountered due to the Depression, and its effects upon laboratory equipment and research. He next describes his experiences teaching at Loyola College and consulting for the Colloid Corporation, his job with the Coast Guard at the Federal Lighthouse Service, his years at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and his work on the Manhattan District Project. The final portion of the interview briefly summarizes his early teaching background at the University of Texas, his consulting work for the Lone Star Gas Company, and his creation of the Corrosion Research Laboratory (now the Balcones Research Center).
|1932||Johns Hopkins University||AB||Chemistry|
|1935||Johns Hopkins University||PhD||Chemistry|
US Coast Guard
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
University of Texas at Austin
Whitney Award, National Association of Corrosion Engineers
Joseph L. Mattiello Award
Palladium Medal, The Electrochemical Society
Southwest Regional Award, American Chemical Society
LLD, St. Edwards University
DSc, Austin College
Honor Scroll, Texas Institute of Chemists
DSc, Texas Christian University
LLD, Abilene Christian University
Gold Medal, American Institute of Chemists
Mirabeau B. Lamar Award, Association of Texas Colleges and Universities
Distinguished Alumnus Award, Johns Hopkins University
Edward Goodrich Acheson Award, The Electrochemical Society
Alumni Gold Medal for Distinguished Service, Rice University
Charles Lathrop Parsons Award
Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Vannevar Bush Award, National Science Board
Doctor of Public Service, University of North Texas
National Medal of Science
Texas Distinguished Scientist Award, Texas Academy of Science
Table of Contents
Parents stress education. Grows up in Baltimore. Attends public schools. Intense high school education encourages interest in chemistry. Attributes both self discipline and poor handwriting to elementary school.
Convenient location influences choice of school. Few scholarships available during Depression. Receives AB and PhD in seven years. First exposure to philosophy and psychology. Very strong freshman chemistry course. Tough qualitative analysis course. Interest in physical chemistry but no formal courses. Teaching assistant. Works with Reid on sulfur chemistry, accident permanently affects sense of smell. Works in x-ray lab for a while. Considers catalyst lab work rote. Chooses to do graduate work with Patrick, measuring zeta potential of silica gel with silver-silver chloride electrode, also determining molecular composition of sulfur monochloride dissolved in various solvents. Stays an extra year assisting freshman chemistry and working in lab since jobs scarce during Depression. Interest in developing reversible oxygen electrode. High quality faculty, but reduced because of Depression and school's bankruptcy. Must scrape for and build own equipment.
Teaches physical chemistry laboratories. Also consults for the Colloid Corporation, working on emulsifiers for food products. Applies to the Department of Agriculture.
Gets position in analytical laboratory of Federal Lighthouse Service on Staten Island. Marries. Becomes interested in corrosion.
Assistant professor of chemistry. Directs physical chemistry labs. Very limited research opportunities. Teaches chemistry to participants in Army Specialized Training Program.
Enlists but is assigned to Manhattan District Project materials group. Travels to labs across country, ensuring against experimental duplication, following deterioration studies of flourine on nickel, and suggesting certain experiments. Description of K-25 plant and nickel corrosion worries.
Teaches chemistry and colloid chemistry. Continued interest in corrosion and deterioration. Consults for Lone Star Gas Company. Develops interest in inhibitors and passivity. Converts magnesium plant into Corrosion Research Laboratory. Support from the Research Corporation and Office of Naval Research.
About the Interviewer
James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. Bohning passed away in September 2011.