Roy G. Neville

Born: October 15, 1926 | Bournemouth, GB
Died: November 26, 2007 | Pebble Beach, CA, US

Roy G. Neville comments on his family and his childhood in Bournemouth, England, during the start of World War II, while admitting that he was not very intrigued by his first chemistry lesson but enjoyed performing experiments. Neville eventually earned his master's degree and PhD in the US at the University of Oregon, later establishing Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. to help chemists in industry. As an entrepreneur, Neville spent more of his time and money on his rare book collection and the creation of The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0317
No. of pages: 120
Minutes: 406
Sponsor: Bolton Society

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
20-21 June 2005
Pebble Beach, California

Abstract of Interview

Roy G. Neville begins the interview by tracing his family history back to the year 700. He discusses his immediate family and his childhood in Bournemouth, England. Neville admits that he was not very impressed with his first chemistry lesson, but was intrigued by doing chemistry experiments in his makeshift home laboratory. He excelled academically and was accepted at Balliol College, University of Oxford. However, Neville was drafted into an industry of “national importance” and was unable to attend Balliol. After a brief stint at Signals Research and Development Establishment, Neville met Professor Neil Kensington Adam, who allowed him to attended the University College Southampton part-time. Neville continued to excel and was invited to do graduate research in the US at the University of Oregon. While at Oregon, Neville received his master's degree and PhD and met his future wife, Jeanne. Neville goes on to describe his employment at various companies and the problem of being a chemist in industry. To combat this problem, he established Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. Being an entrepreneur allowed Neville to spend more of his time and money on collecting rare books. He details the start and growth of his rare book collection and his near decision to sell the collection in 1965. He discusses his competitors, how he obtained many of his rare treasures, and the start of The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Finally, Neville concludes the interviews with reflections of his childhood in Bournemouth during the start of World War II. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1951 University of London BSc honours
1952 University of Oregon MSc
1954 University of Oregon PhD Physical Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Monsanto Chemical Company

1955 to 1957
Senior Research Chemist

Boeing Airplane Company

1957 to 1958
Senior Chemical Engineer

Lockheed Missiles & Space Company

1958 to 1961
Research Scientist

Aerospace Corporation

1961 to 1963
Member, Technical Staff and Polymer Chemist

North American Aviation, Inc.

1963 to 1967
Principal Scientist

Boeing Science Research Labs

1967 to 1969
Head, Polymer Research Lab

Bechtel Corporation

1969 to 1973
Senior Scientist Specialist, Science Development Department

Engineering & Technical Consultants, Inc.

1973 to 2007
President and Consultant


Year(s) Award

Fulbright Scholarship

1951 to 1952

Fellow, U. S. Public Health Service

1953 to 1954

Fellow, Research Corporation


Fellow, Royal Institute of Chemistry, London


DSc (hon. ), Royal Institute of Chemistry, London


Founding of the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at the Chemical Heritage Foundation


Lifetime Achievement Award, Chemical Heritage Foundation


Establishment of the Roy G. Neville Fellowship, Chemical Heritage Foundation


Establishment of the Roy G. Neville Prize in Bibliography or Biography, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Table of Contents

Childhood and Education

Family history. Problematic birth. Pyloric stenosis. Experiences at Winton and Moordown School in Bournemouth. First chemistry lesson. Using his home chemistry lab to make a bomb. Academic prowess. Acceptance into Balliol College, University of Oxford and the start of World War II. An industry of national importance. Signals Research and Development Establishment. Professor Neil Kensington Adam. University College Southampton. Work at the British Gas Board. Kenneth Edward Hayes and Professor Robert B. Dean.

Graduate Research at the University of Oregon

Traveling to the United States. The language barrier. Eugene, Oregon and the Deans. Master's degree. Biochemistry and meeting the future Mrs. Neville. Courtship and marriage of Jeanne and Roy. George Gorin and coordination compounds. Ph.D. work.

Early Employment

American-Marietta Company. Peter Gordon Howe. Monsanto Chemical Company. Becoming a U. S. citizen. Entrepreneurial work with Joe Majnarich. Boeing Airplane Company. Lockheed Missiles & Space Company. Money issues. Aerospace Corporation. Tom Dudek. Sol Skolnik. Marion Thomas O'Shaughnessy. North American Aviation Inc. HC3. Bechtel Corporation.

Life as a Consultant

Work with Krebs Engineers. Founding of Engineering and Technical Consultants, Inc. Homestake Mining Company. Kerr Magee Corporation. Investing in Montana 8, Texas 9, and Texas 10.

Health Problems

Chest pains during a trip to Bournemouth. Baby aspirin and an operation. Angioplasty. Having a quintuple bypass. Diagnosed with Paget's disease and prostate cancer. An important call to Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts from his hospital bed.

The Rare Book Collector

Start of collection. Book Collecting as a Hobby in a Series of Letters to Everyman. Elsevier Press. Robert Boyle. Jeanne's interest in and support of collecting. The Sceptical Chymist. Decision to sell collection in 1965. Dealing with rare book dealers. Franz Sondheimer. Macquer's Dictionnaire de Chymie. William A. Cole. Sondheimer's visit to Neville's private library. Arnold Thackray. Sondheimer's suicide. Competition with other rare book collectors. Denis Duveen.

The Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library

Cataloguing the collection. Growth rate of collection. Linda Hall Library. Selling the collection to the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Gordon E. Moore.


Interest in engravings and art. Alchemical paintings. Daughters, Laura and Janet. Reflections of childhood experiences in Bournemouth during World War II.


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.