James D. Idol
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
James D. Idol begins his interview with a description of his childhood in Harrisonville, Missouri. His interest in chemistry was encouraged by neighbors and by friends. He attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he studied chemistry under Professor Frank Edson and graduated with an AB in 1949. He immediately went on to graduate school at Purdue University, where he studied under Dr. Earl McBee. His interest in industrial chemistry led him to minor in chemical engineering. Upon receiving his PhD in 1955, he went to work for Standard Oil of Ohio, where he soon pioneered an economically advantageous process for the production of acrylonitrile. He then served as part of the team that developed a plant in Lima, Ohio for the commercial production of acrylonitrile in a record-breaking three years. He then turned his attention to novel uses for acrylonitrile, which led to Barex resin, among other things. In 1977, he moved on the Ashland Chemical, where he occupied a position that combined management and scientific duties. At Ashland, he developed the propylene-CO process for methyl methacrylate. His career in industry ended in 1988 when he was invited to become a professor at Rutgers University and head of the Center for Packaging Science and Engineering. He pays special attention to individuals who have influenced him throughout his life, and he concludes with some personal insights on the meanings of innovation, teamwork, and research in science and technology.
|1949||William Jewell College||AB||Chemistry|
|1955||Purdue University||PhD||Chemistry/Organic, minor Chemical Engineering|
Standard Oil Company of Ohio
Ashland Chemical Company
Modern Pioneer Award, National Association of Manufacturers
Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
Citation for Achievement, William Jewell College
Joseph P. Stewart Distinguished Service Award, American Chemical Society
Creative Invention Award, American Chemical Society
Special Merit Award, Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO) Board of Directors
Life Fellow, American Institute of Chemists
Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
Honorary D Sc. , Purdue University
Member, National Academy of Engineering
Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science
F. G. Ciapetti Award and Lectureship, Catalysis Society of North America
Rutgers University Diploma of Recognition, Distinguished/Named Chairs
American Management Association Council Service Award
National Historic Chemical Landmark Designation to SOHIO Acrylonitrile Process
Table of Contents
Childhood in Harrisonville, Missouri. Family and early influences. Childhood interest in chemistry. Experience at Harrisonville High School.
William Jewel College. Undergraduate influences and experiences. Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Purdue University. Study of halogen chemistry under Earl McBee. Thesis and teaching experience.
Recruitment by Everett Hughes. Influence of Dr. Franklin Veatch. Organization and dynamics of Veatch's research group. Research leading up to the development of a new acrylonitrile process. Commercialization of the process. Uses developed for acrylonitrile. Influence of Dr. Henry Gray. Position of polymer chemistry in academia.
Combination of management and scientific opportunities. Propylene-CO process for methyl methacrylate and its economic advantages. Other projects at Ashland.
Packaging schools at Rutgers and elsewhere. Need to acknowledge packaging engineering as an engineering field.
Personal meaning of scientific innovation. Thoughts on scientific teamwork and heritage. Professional contacts and associations. Concerns about downsizing. Reflections on winning the Perkin Medal. Thoughts about development of new technology.
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.