Charles E. Reed

Born: August 11, 1913 | Findlay, OH, US
Died: Friday, November 16, 2007 | Bridgeport, CT, US

Charles Reed discusses his upbringing in Findlay, Ohio, later earning his B.S. in chemistry from the Case School of Applied Science but pursued a D. Sc. in  both chemistry and chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While teaching as an assistant professor, Reed also began to consult for various companies and later started a long career at the General Electric Company. In time, Reed gradually moved up the management ladder as he worked with various materials, like organosilicon polymers, phenolic laminates, the commercial development of synthetic diamonds, and the development of both polycarbonates and polyphenylene oxide. 

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.


Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0051
No. of pages: 65
Minutes: 215

Interview Sessions

George Wise
11 July 1986
New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Charles Reed begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and early education. Reed grew up in Findlay, Ohio, and credits his high school teachers with fostering his interest in the sciences. He attended Case School of Applied Science, earning his B.S. in chemistry in 1934. At Case, he was influenced greatly by Professor Carl Prutton, and Reed decided to continue on to graduate school. There, Reed wanted to pursue both chemistry and chemical engineering, and he combined his interests at MIT, where he earned his D. Sc. in chemical engineering in 1937. His thesis focused on colloid chemistry, which led to his later fascination with polymer chemistry. Upon receiving his doctorate, Reed became an assistant professor at MIT. While there, he also began to consult for various companies. In 1942, he accepted a permanent position with General Electric Company, where he spent the rest of his career. His first work involved organosilicon polymers and the scaling up of processes. When G. E. decided to set up a chemical engineering department, Reed was selected as the manager. Through the years, Reed gradually moved up the management ladder, becoming senior vice-president of corporate technology in 1971. During his time at G. E. , he helped scale up the silicone processes and worked on phenolic laminates, the commercial development of synthetic diamonds, and the development of both polycarbonates and polyphenylene oxide. Reed concludes the interview with his thoughts on the future of G.E. and his experience as a member of one of its Sector Boards. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1934 Case Institute of Technology BS Chemistry
1937 Massachusetts Institute of Technology DSc Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1937 to 1942
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

General Electric Company

1942 to 1945
Research Associate
1945 to 1952
Engineering Manager, Chemical Division
1952 to 1959
General Manager, Silicone Products Department
1959 to 1962
General Manager, Silicone & Metal Products Department
1962 to 1968
Vice-President and General Manager, Chemical and Metals Division
1968 to 1971
Vice-President and Group Executive, Components and Materials Group
1971 to 1979
Senior Vice-President, Corporate Technology


Year(s) Award

Elected, National Academy of Engineering


Commercial Development Association Award

Table of Contents

Family Background and Early Education

Growing up in Findlay, Ohio. Influence of high school teachers. Interest in science. Siblings.

College Education and Early Career

Attending Case School of Applied Science. Interest in both chemistry and chemical engineering. Influence of Professor Carl Prutton. Decision to attend graduate school at MIT. Thesis on colloid chemistry. Teaching position at MIT. Consulting. Growing interest in polymers.

General Electric Company

Decision to work for G. E. Organosilicon polymers. Scaling up fluid bed process. Working with Eugene Rochow and Abraham Marshall.

Chemical Engineering at G. E.

Setting up Chemical Engineering department. Designing full-scale silicone plant. Cross-licensing agreements with Dow. Work on phenolic laminates. Moving up in management.

G. E. Research

Discovery of polycarbonates by Daniel W. Fox. Commercial development of synthetic diamonds. Development of polycarbonates and PPO. Emphasis on Noryl.

Concluding Thoughts

Recent expansion of G. E. Sector Board.


About the Interviewer

George Wise

George Wise is a communications specialist at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady, New York. He holds a BS in engineering physics from Lehigh University, an MS in physics from University of Michigan, and a PhD in history from Boston University. He worked briefly as a systems engineer before entering his current career in public relations. He has published a book and several articles about the history of industrial research, invention and science. His current research interest is how people can learn from history.