Allan S. Hay
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Allan S. Hay begins the interview with a description of his secondary and undergraduate education in Alberta. After briefly describing his graduate work at the University of Illinois and a summer job at DuPont, he begins the story of his career at General Electric. There, after only a very short time, he was able to oxidize xylenol to synthesize PPO. Hay focuses on the practical applications as well as the chemical aspects of the progress that occurred in plastics research (including the developments of Noryl and Ultem) during his career as both a research chemist and a manager at G.E. He concludes with a bit of insight into what lies ahead in polymer research and development.
|1950||University of Alberta||BSc||Chemistry|
|1952||University of Alberta||MSc||Chemistry|
|1955||University of Illinois at Chicago||PhD||Chemistry|
University of Alberta
General Electric Company
University of Massachusetts
Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences
International Award in Plastics Science and Engineering, Society of Plastics Engineers
Rauscher Memorial Lecturer, Society of Plastics Engineers
Fellow of the Royal Society of London
Achievement Award, Industrial Research Institute
Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
Table of Contents
Interest in chemistry begins during secondary school in Alberta, where advanced courses are available. Attends the University of Alberta and becomes interested in organic chemistry and is mentored by Reuben B. Sandin. On Sandin's recommendation, pursues graduate work at the University of Illinois. Introduced to industrial chemistry through summer employment at DuPont.
Recruited from Illinois by John Elliott. Given tremendous freedom and independence. Works on oxidation of xylenes and with phthalic acids. Misses out on patent opportunity. Research on oxidation of phenols and xylenol leads to synthesis of PPO. Controversy in Pittsfield over whether any resources should be shifted from polycarbonates to PPO. Attempts to synthesize completely aromatic polymer lead to polymerization of cylcohexanone (P3O). PPO plant built, but manufactured products not successful. Discovery that PPO and polystyrene are miscible leads to rubber toughened blend? Noryl.
Discovery of polyformals. Interaction with academia. Various consultants. Lack of presence of polymers in most college chemistry curricula. Development of Ultem. Very little interaction with corporate competitors. Currently trying to develop high performance composites for military applications and sports equipment. Maintains identity as organic chemist, not merely polymer specialist.
About the Interviewer
Leonard Fine is professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate studies in chemistry at Columbia University. His special interests include polymer chemistry and materials science, industrial inorganic and organic chemistry, engineering plastics, problems in solid waste management and the recovery and recycling of post-consumer plastics. Among his recent publications are two practical manuals on principles and practices of infrared spectroscopy and a general chemistry textbook for engineers and scientists. He holds a BS in chemistry from Marietta College and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Maryland at College Park.
George Wise is a communications specialist at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady, New York. He holds a BS in engineering physics from Lehigh University, an MS in physics from University of Michigan, and a PhD in history from Boston University. He worked briefly as a systems engineer before entering his current career in public relations. He has published a book and several articles about the history of industrial research, invention and science. His current research interest is how people can learn from history.