Roy J. Plunkett
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Roy Plunkett starts this conversation with James Bohning by describing his family background. As the family were members of the Church of the Brethren it was natural for Plunkett to attend Manchester College, where Paul Flory was a close friend and near contemporary. Despite the rigors of the Depression, Roy Plunkett was able to complete his chemistry studies at Manchester College and to go to Ohio State University for graduate work in carbohydrate chemistry. An offer from DuPont sent Plunkett to the Jackson laboratories and the refrigerants group where an early assignment was the synthesis of tetrafluoroethylene. Plunkett tells the story of the plugged gas cylinder and his recognition of the unusual properties of the polymer. However, soon after this, Plunkett was moved to tetraethyl lead manufacture; he details his work there and his later career in the Organic Chemicals Department. The interview ends with the recognition of his pioneer work with Teflon and the honors it has brought him. In a brief second interview, Roy Plunkett tells of his common religious background with Paul Flory, their student days at Manchester College and Ohio State University, and their contacts over the years. The conversation ends with further recollections of the circumstances of the initial discovery of tetrafluoroethylene polymerization.
|1933||Ohio State University||MSc||Chemistry|
|1936||Ohio State University||PhD||Organic Chemistry|
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
John Scott Award, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia
DSc, Manchester College
DSc, Washington College
Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
Plastics Hall of Fame
DSc,Ohio State University
National Inventor's Hall of Fame, U. S. Department of Commerce
Moissan Award, France
John W. Hyatt Award, Society of Plastics Engineers
Table of Contents
Parents and siblings, influence of Church of the Brethren. High school.
Manchester College, chemistry faculty. Flory as fellow student. The Depression and financial support.
Ohio State University. Chemistry faculty and colleagues.
Jackson laboratories, refrigerants research and fluorocarbons. Tetrafluoroethylene, spontaneous polymerization in gas cylinder. Properties of product, early applications.
Transfer to TEL manufacture. Wartime demand. Recognition for Teflon acheivement, later applications.
Chambers Works. Organic Chemical and Freons. Family, interests in antiques. Honors.
Church of the Brethren. Flory and family. Manchester College and contact with Flory; his early research. Further recollections of TFE polymerization.
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.