Francis O. Rice

Born: May 20, 1890 | Liverpool, GB
Died: Wednesday, January 18, 1989 | Mishawaka, IN, US

Francis O. Rice discusses his upbringing in England, his studies at Princeton, his teaching career at New York University, and his research and administrative activities at Johns Hopkins University and the Catholic University of America. Rice also recounts his theory on free radicals and assesses the place of science in Catholic universities and an explanation of the Laidler-ADX controversy of the mid 1950's. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0006
No. of pages: 28
Minutes: 218

Interview Sessions

John A. Heitmann
4-5 January 1984
South Bend, Indiana and Mishawaka, Indiana

Abstract of Interview

Francis O. Rice discusses his life and career in this interview, which begins with mention of his early days in England, his studies at Princeton, and his teaching at New York University. Rice describes his teaching, research, and administrative activities at the Johns Hopkins University and the Catholic University of America. Of central concern is his theory of free radicals. Mrs. Katherine Rice adds to the interview by discussing her husband's professional activities and remembering several of his closest colleagues. The interview concludes with an appraisal of the place of science in Catholic universities and an explanation of the Laidler-ADX controversy of the mid -1950's. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1911 University of Liverpool BSc Chemistry
1912 University of Liverpool MSc Chemistry
1916 University of Liverpool DSc Chemistry

Professional Experience

Princeton University

1851 Exhibition Fellow

New York University

1919 to 1920
1920 to 1924
Assistant Professor

Johns Hopkins University

1924 to 1926
Associate, Chemistry Department
1926 to 1938
Associate Professor
Principal Research Scientist, Institute for Cooperative Research
1968 to 1985
Director, Research Chemistry Lab, Johns Hopkins University

Catholic University of America

1938 to 1959
Professor and Head of Department, Chemistry Department

Georgetown University

1959 to 1962
Professor and Chairman of Department, Chemistry Department

University of Notre Dame

1962 to 1968
Visiting Research Professor and Principal Research Scientist

Table of Contents

Early Days in England

Parents. Siblings. First schooling in chemistry. Attainments at the University of Liverpool. War-time service. Work with explosives. "The 1851 Fellowship. "

Studies at Princeton University

Hugh Taylor. The juncture of physical chemistry with organic chemistry.

Teaching at New York University

Assistant professor. The qualities of Arthur E. Hill. Measurements of reaction rates.

Teaching and Research at John Hopkins University

Colleagues. Teaching interests. The Mechanism of Homogeneous Organic Reactions. Free radicals. F. A. Paneth and W. Hofeditz. Mrs. Rice. Outside consulting. Karl Herzfeld, Harold C. Urey, and Francis Bichowsky.

Two Decades at Catholic University

Reasons for accepting assignment there. Role of the archbishop. Drastic changes in the chemistry department.

Research Interests

Bivalent carbene. Free radicals. Current research endeavors.

Familial and Professional Reminiscenses

Mrs. Rice's education. How she met Frank Rice. Edward Teller. Opposition to the theory of free radicals. Cyril Hinshelwood. Emphasis upon the quality of teaching.


Bichowsky. Urey. Herzfeld.

Science in Catholic Institutions of Higher Learning

Why science lagged in these institutions. Rice's role in upgrading the teaching of science in Catholic colleges and universities.

The Laidler Controversy

The battery additive, ADX. Controversy over its effectiveness. The role of Laidler in this affair. The chemistry department of the Catholic University dissociates itself from Laidler. The resolution of the affair.

About the Interviewer

John A. Heitmann

John A. Heitmann holds a BS degree in chemistry from Davidson College and an MA degree in history from Clemson University. From 1971 to 1977, he worked as a chemist in the metallurgical industry. He then studied at the Johns Hopkins University under Owen Hannaway and received his doctorate in the history of science in 1983.