Gordon M. Kline

Born: February 9, 1903 | Trenton, NJ, US
Died: August 4, 1996 | Palm Beach

Gordon Kline discusses his lengthy career at the National Bureau of Standards and his work on applications of organic resins to aviation. Kline also expands on his other polymer-related activities, including his role in setting national and international standards for testing synthetic polymer products, his tenure as Technical Editor of Modern Plastics, and his time in Germany investigating German plastics laboratories.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0070
No. of pages: 58
Minutes: 309

Interview Sessions

Jeffrey L. Meikle
15-16 May 1987
Lake Worth, Florida

Abstract of Interview

Gordon M. Kline begins the interview by discussing his work at the National Bureau of Standards during the 1930s, where he focussed on applications of organic resins to aviation. This is followed by a general discussion of his work as head of the Bureau's Organic Plastics Section and as Technical Editor of Modern Plastics. A lengthy section of the interview is devoted to Kline's experiences in Germany in 1945, investigating German plastics laboratories, plants, and processes. The next major portion of the interview covers Kline's experiences as an administrator of the Division of Polymers at the National Bureau of Standards and his role in setting national and international standards of testing for synthetic polymer products. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of Kline's education at Colgate University and at the University of Maryland.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1925 Colgate University AB Chemistry
1926 George Washington University MS Chemistry
1934 University of Maryland, College Park PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

New York State Department of Health

1926 to 1927
Research Chemist

US War Department

1928 to 1929
Research Chemist, Picatinny Arsenal

National Bureau of Standards

1929 to 1935
Research Chemist
1935 to 1951
Chief, Organic Plastics Section
Chief, Organic and Fibrous Materials Division
1951 to 1963
Chief, Division of Polymers
1964 to 1969

Modern Plastics

Technical Editor
1936 to 1960
Editorial Director and Consultant, Modern Plastics Encyclopedia

American Society for Testing and Materials

1948 to 1952
1941 to 1954
Chairman, Federal Specifications Plastics Technical Committee

International Standards Organization

Technical Committee 61 Plastics, Member
1951 to 1958

International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)

1951 to 1967
Section on Plastics and Polymers, Member
1959 to 1963
Section on Plastics and Polymers, Vice-Chairman
1963 to 1967
1967 to 1975
Macromolecular Division, Member
1976 to 1987


Year(s) Award

Honor Award, Washington Section, American Institute of Chemists


Exceptional Service Gold Medal, Department of Commerce


Award of Merit, American Society for Testing and Materials


Rosa Award, National Bureau of Standards


Charter Member, Plastics Hall of Fame


Award of Excellence, ASTM Committee D-20

Table of Contents

Early career at National Bureau of Standards

Moisture absorption in gelatin-based coating on Navy dirigibles. Airplane fabric dopes. Improvement of service properties of transparent plastics glazing sheets by multi-axial stretching. Resin-bonded plywood in aircraft applications.

Activities outside NBS

Early Gordon Conferences. Role as Technical Editor of Modern Plastics. Formation of ASTM Plastics Committee.

Wartime activities

Growth of NBS Plastics Section during WWII. Developments in plastics and polymer interests in the American Chemical Society. Performance standards. Wartime liaison with the British. Experiences as a technical investigator in Germany during 1945.

Post-war career

Publication of the German plastics reports and of Natta's Nobel Award address in Modern Plastics. Development of International Standards for plastics. IUPAC activities, especially on plastics terminology. Publication of The Analytical Chemistry of Polymers. Preservation of State documents and Hungarian relics. Image problems with plastics. Appreciation of NBS polymer studies. Plastics Hall of Fame.

The early years

Family background. High school and undergraduate education. Employment in Health Laboratories, State of New York, and at Picatinny Arsenal. Transfer to NBS. Part-time PhD studies at University of Maryland.


About the Interviewer

Jeffrey L. Meikle

Jeffrey L. Meikle holds an AB and an AM in American Civilization from Brown University and a PhD in American Civilization from the University of Texas at Austin.  He is Associate Professor of American Studies and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Meikle is the author of Twentieth Century Limited.  Industrial Design in America, 1925-1939, published in 1979 and is currently writing a cultural history of plastics in the United States