J. Paul Hogan

Born: August 7, 1919 | Lowes, KY, US
Died: June 5, 2012 | Wichita, KS, US

J. Paul Hogan received a BS in chemistry and physics and first taught high school and undergraduate chemistry and physics, but spent most of his career with Phillips Petroleum Company. At Phillips, Hogan worked primarily with polymers and collaborated with Grant Bailey, Alfred Clark, and Robert L. Banks, with whom he discovered polypropylene.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0136
No. of pages: 41
Minutes: 121

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
10 February 1995
Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Abstract of Interview

The interview begins as J. Paul Hogan discusses his family background and early education in Lowes, Kentucky. Next follows a description of Hogan's college education at Murray State and teaching experiences at the high school and college levels. The central portion of the interview focuses on Hogan's career with Phillips Petroleum Company, which began after his position teaching physics at Oklahoma A&M was eliminated. Hogan's first work at Phillips was with Grant Bailey and Alfred Clark on double bond shifting. After about five years, he switched to the Fischer-Tropsch project, preparing and commercializing a process for the production of hydrocarbon. Next Hogan worked with Clark, and eventually others, beginning by investigating the nickel oxide catalyst and using it to produce 223-trimethylpentene and 223-trimethylpentane. Ultimately Hogan and Banks discovered polypropylene, and the interview examines some of the many patents and papers stemming from this research. Throughout the interview, Hogan comments on his relationships with Clark, Bailey, Robert L. Banks and Clarence Lanning. He also discusses the reaction of Phillips' management to the production of polymers, the work and decisions leading to the commercialization of polyethylene before polypropylene, and the legal situations surrounding the commercialization of polypropylene. Towards the end of the interview, Hogan examines Phillips' attitude toward publishing, records retention, and R&D; his own work on copolymerization; and his views on the research process and the roles of theory and intuition in it. The interview concludes with a discussion of the meaning of the Perkin Medal and the future of chemical R&D.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1942 Murray State University BS Chemistry and Physics

Professional Experience

Mayfield High School

1942 to 1943
Chemistry and Physics Instructor

Oklahoma State University

1943 to 1944
Physics Instructor

Phillips Petroleum Company

1944 to 1947
Research Chemist
1947 to 1954
Project Leader
1954 to 1960
Group Leader
1960 to 1977
Section Supervisor
1977 to 1985
Senior Research Associate
1985 to 1986

Neuman, Williams, and Olson

1986 to 1993
Independent Consultant


Year(s) Award

Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society


Honarary DSc, Murray State University


Pioneer Chemist Award, American Institute of Chemists


Distinguished Alumnus Award, Murray State University


Lifetime Appointment as Kentucky Colonel by Governor of Kentucky


Inventor of the Year Award, Oklahoma Bar Association, Copyright and Patent Section


Man of the Year Award for Outstanding Achievement in Polymeric Materials, Society of Plastics Engineers


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

Table of Contents

Childhood, Early and College Education

High school in Lowes, Kentucky. BS in chemistry and physics from Murray State University.

Early Career

Teaching position at Mayfield High School. Position teaching physics in Army pre-flight school at Oklahoma A&M.

Early Work for Phillips Petroleum Company

Work on Fischer-Tropsch project. Work on Nickel oxide catalyst project.

Polypropylene Discovery and Patent

Discovery process. Patents and papers on polymerization.

Later work for Phillips Petroleum Company

Perkin Medal award. Copolymerization of polyethylene. Views of intuition and theory in research process. Comments on atmosphere at Phillips.


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.