Vladimir Haensel

Born: September 1, 1914 | Freiburg, DE
Died: Monday, December 16, 2002 | Hampshire County, MA, US

Vladimir Haensel studied engineering at Northwestern, receiving his BS in 1935. He earned a scholarship for graduate school at MIT, where he studied polymerization under Edwin R. Gilliland. After earning his MS in chemical engineering in 1937, Haensel took a permanent position at Universal Oil Products and helped set up a high-pressure laboratory (funded by UOP) at Northwestern. During this time, Haensel also earned his PhD in chemistry from Northwestern, writing a thesis on the decomposition of cyclohexane. In the 1940s and 1950s, Haensel moved into research management. He was also integral in UOP's development of the Platforming process.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0115
No. of pages: 57
Minutes: 180

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
2 November 1994
Universities of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Vladimir Haensel begins this interview by discussing his family life. Haensel, though born in Germany, spent parts of his childhood in Russia, Austria, and Germany. He attended a German gymnasium, where he had only a few science courses. However, family friends encouraged his burgeoning interest in chemistry. When his father was offered a faculty position at Northwestern University, Haensel's family moved to the United States. Haensel studied engineering at Northwestern, receiving his BS in 1935. He earned a scholarship for graduate school at MIT, where he studied polymerization under Edwin R. Gilliland. With the help of a family friend, Vladimir Ipatieff, Haensel was offered a summer position at Universal Oil Products (UOP). After earning his MS in chemical engineering in 1937, Haensel took a permanent position at UOP, and helped Ipatieff to set up a high-pressure laboratory (funded by UOP) at Northwestern. During this time, Haensel also earned his PhD in chemistry from Northwestern, writing a thesis on the decomposition of cyclohexane. In the 1940s and 1950s, Haensel moved into research management. He was also integral in UOP's development of the Platforming process. Haensel concludes this interview with a discussion of the importance of instinct in research, the future of research and development, and his thoughts on winning the Perkin Medal.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1935 Northwestern University BS General Engineering
1939 Massachusetts Institute of Technology MS Chemical Engineering
1942 Northwestern University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Universal Oil Products Company

1937
Chemical Engineer
1942 to 1945
Chemical Engineer
1945
Coordinator, Cracking Research Division
1951
Director of Refining Research
1960
Director of Process Research
1964 to 1972
Vice President, Director of Research
1972 to 1979
Vice President, Science and Technology

Ipatieff High Pressure Laboratory

1939
Research Assistant

Petroleum Administration of War

1945
Inspector

University of Massachusetts

1980
Professor of Chemical Engineering, Amherst

Honors

Year(s) Award
1944

Chicago Junior Chamber of Commerce Award

1952

Precision Scientific Company Award in Petroleum Chemistry

1957

Professional Progress Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1965

Modern Pioneers in Creative Industry Award, National Association of Manufacturers

1967

Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists

1967

Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

1971

Member, National Academy of Sciences

1973

National Medal of Science

1974

Member, National Academy of Engineering

1977

Eugene J. Houdry Award in Applied Catalysis

1984

Chancellor's Medal, University of Massachusetts

1991

Award for Chemistry in Service to Society, National Academy of Sciences

1993

Henry J. Albert Award, International Precious Metal Institute

1994

Chancellor's Outstanding Teacher Award, University of Massachusetts

1997

Charles Stark Draper Prize, National Academy of Engineering

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Education
1

Growing up in Russia, Germany, Austria, and the United States. Effect of World War I. Growing interest in chemistry due to family friends.

College Education
5

Engineering at Northwestern University. Graduate school at MIT. Studying polymerization with Edwin R. Gilliland. Summer job at Universal Oil Products. Influence of Vladimir Ipatieff.

Career at Universal Oil Products
8

Working for Ipatieff. Setting up high-pressure laboratory at Northwestern. Ph.D. thesis on decomposition of cyclohexane. Development of the Platforming process.

Research and Development
35

Importance of instinct. Experiences in research management. Corporate support for R&D. Cooperation between chemists and chemical engineers. Importance of reading. Future of R&D.

Conclusion
46

Thoughts on winning the Perkin Medal.

Notes
49
Index
51

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

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.