William E. Hanford

Born: December 9, 1908 | Bristol, PA, US
Died: Saturday, January 27, 1996 | Bethesda, MD, US

William E. Hanford attended the University of Illinois and studied with Roger Adams. He worked on various problems in the laboratory, and got to know many members of the department, including Carl Marvel, Reynold Fuson, and Ralph Shriner. After earning his PhD in 1935, he took a job with DuPont, working in Experimental Station. He discusses how work on such household items as Teflon, Glim, and Head and Shoulders led to his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0139
No. of pages: 43
Minutes: 141

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
15 March 1995
Bethesda, Maryland

Abstract of Interview

William Hanford begins the interview with a discussion of the importance of teamwork and the influence of Roger Adams in his career. He then continues on to his family background and youth. His high school chemistry teacher and his uncle both encouraged his interest in the sciences. After graduating from Bristol High School, he attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, where he earned a BS in chemistry in 1930. Hanford then took a position as an analytical chemist at Rohm and Haas, but soon decided to attend graduate school. He accepted an offer from the University of Illinois, and studied with Roger Adams. He worked on various problems in the laboratory, and got to know many members of the department, including Carl Marvel, Reynold Fuson, and Ralph Shriner. After earning his PhD in 1935, he took a job with DuPont, working in Experimental Station. He worked on producing isothiocyanate and polymerizing caprolactam. Hanford was also involved with Teflon, polyamides, and polyesters. In 1942, he moved to GAF, where he worked on Glim, the first liquid detergent. Hanford then moved to M. W. Kellogg Company in 1946. He helped to develop KEL-F and sold it to 3M before moving again to Olin Corporation in 1957. At Olin, he worked on Head and Shoulders, carpet backing, and plastic shotgun shells, among other products. Hanford concludes the interview with a discussion of teamwork, his family, his experience with urethane, and his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1930 Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science BS
1935 University of Illinois at Chicago PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Rohm and Haas

1930 to 1931
Analyst Chemist

University of Illinois at Chicago

1932 to 1935
Assistant Chemist

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

1935 to 1936
Research Chemist
1936 to 1942
Group Leader

General Aniline & Film Corporation

1942 to 1946

M. W. Kellogg Company

1946 to 1947
Technical Consultant
1948 to 1950
Director, Petroleum and Chemical Research
1950 to 1957
Vice President
1950 to 1957
Director of Research
1950 to 1957
Member, Board of Directors

Olin Corporation

1957
Assistant to President
1957 to 1973
Vice President, Research and Development

World Water Resources, Inc.

1968
Director of Research
1968
Chairman of the Board
1973 to 1985
Consultant

Honors

Year(s) Award
1955

Ambassador's Award, State of Pennsylvania

1957

Honor Scroll, American Institute of Chemists, New York Chapter

1961

Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

1967

Chemical Pioneers Award

1974

Gold Medal, American Institute of Chemists

1991

Inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Table of Contents

Early Career
1

Experience at DuPont. Importance of teamwork. Influence of Roger Adams.

Family Background and Education
2

Parents. Growing up in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Financial situation. High school science. Encouragement of uncle. Decision to attend Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. First job at Rohm and Haas. Decision to pursue graduate studies.

Graduate School
5

Choosing the University of Illinois. Working with Roger Adams. Laboratory research. Interactions with Carl Marvel, Reynold Fuson, and Ralph Shriner. Language studies.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
7

Working in Experimental Station. Isolthiocyanate. Becoming group leader. Polymerizing caprolactam. Polymerizing polyethylene. Teflon. Fluorochemistry. Polyesters and polyamides. Decision to leave.

General Aniline and Film Corporation
14

Becoming Director of Research. Administrative challenges. Developing Glim.

M. W. Kellogg Company
16

Synthol. Developing KEL-F. Relationship with Pullman Company. Selling KEL-F to 3M.

Olin Corporation
18

Moving to Olin Corporation. Influence of John M. Olin. Introducing Head and Shoulders. Work on plastic shotgun shells and spiral-wound lightweight shotgun. Composite metal coinage. Production of polyurethanes.

Conclusion
21

Importance of teamwork. Shift to administration. Winning the Chemical Industry Medal. Leaving Olin. Working with son in World Water Resources, Inc. Role of Nature. Relationship with Wallace Carothers and Julian Hill. Family. Induction into National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Notes
37
Index
38

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.