Donald S. Noyce

Born: May 26, 1923 | Burlington, IA, US
Died: Wednesday, November 3, 2004 | Oakland, CA, US

Donald Noyces comments on his childhood in Iowa, his years at Grinnell College, his experience at Columbia University as a graduate student, and his position at the University of California at Berkeley. Noyce also discusses the faculty, the chemistry administration, the changing atmosphere with respect to organic chemistry, his research, and his graduate students. Finally, he discusses the development of physical organic chemistry from the turn of the century to 1980. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0297
No. of pages: 35

Interview Sessions

Leon B. Gortler
22 January 1981
University of California, Berkeley, California

Abstract of Interview

Donald Noyce begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood home in Iowa. He discusses his family and their strong academic tradition, his years at Grinnell College, and his early training as a chemist. He also details his graduate training at Columbia University, including his work with Bill (William von Eggers) Doering, his courses, research, and the University's atmosphere. Next, he discusses his position at the University of California at Berkeley. He describes the faculty, the chemistry administration, and the changing atmosphere with respect to organic chemistry. He describes briefly his interaction with other faculty, his research, and his graduate students. Finally, he discusses the development of physical organic chemistry from the turn of the century to 1980. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1944 Grinnell College AB Chemistry
1945 Columbia University MA
1947 Columbia University PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Columbia University

1946
National Institutes of Health Fellow

University of California, Berkeley

1948 to 1950
Instructor
1950 to 1955
Assistant Professor
1952 to 1960
Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Chemistry
1955 to 1960
Associate Professor
1960 to 1986
Professor
1974 to 1981
Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Chemistry
1981 to 1986
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Chemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1957

Guggenheim Fellowship (Europe)

1964

National Science Foundation Senior Fellow

1986

Berkeley Citation, University of California, Berkeley

1987

Establishment of the annual Donald Sterling Noyce Prize, University of California, Berkeley

Table of Contents

Childhood and Education
1

Brief discussion of family history. Attending college. Campus life during World War II. Chemistry faculty and graduates. Graduate applications to Illinois and Columbia. The Roberts Fellowship at Columbia.

Graduate Research at Columbia University
7

War research at Columbia. Thermo with V. K. LaMer. Natural products with Pop (John M. ) Nelson. Organic lab with William von Eggers Doering. Alkaloids with Elderfield. Doering as a person and teacher. Choosing a research director. Postdoctoral work. Ruth Alice Weill and the Katonah Laboratory. Apocryphal tale of promotion meeting. Hammett course in 1945.

University of California at Berkeley
15

Being hired at Berkeley. Facilities and faculty. Influence of G. N. Lewis on the department. Influence of Wendell Latimer after Lewis' retirement. Changes in the role of organic chemistry. Lack of "political" orientation of Berkeley faculty. Bill Dauben. Melvin Calvin's teaching. Long term project on acid catalyzed reactions. Hiring Andrew Streitwieser at Berkeley.

The Growth and Development of Chemistry
20

Transition in organic chemistry. The development of physical organic chemistry. Changes at Berkeley. Effect of World War II. Physical organic chemistry today (1981). Aborted beginning to physical organic chemistry circa 1900.

Addendum
29

Note written by Donald S. Noyce in July 2000.

Notes
30
Index
32

About the Interviewer

Leon B. Gortler

Leon Gortler is a professor of chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He holds AB and MS degrees from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard University where he worked with Paul Bartlett. He has long been interested in the history of chemistry, in particular the development of physical organic chemistry, and has conducted over fifty oral and videotaped interviews with major American chemists.