Ivan Maxwell Robinson
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Ivan Maxwell Robinson begins the interview with a discussion of his family life and education. He was born in the small village of Lakeville, Nova Scotia, where his father ran the general store, and his mother was a school teacher. Around sixth grade, Robinson's family moved to Kentville, Nova Scotia, where Maxwell Robinson attended junior high school and high school. After high school, Robinson earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry, with honors in 1941, from Acadia University. He obtained his master's degree in chemistry from the University of Toronto in 1942, and worked briefly for Canadian Industries Ltd. while studying. After a brief term of service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Robinson returned to college, where he earned his PhD in chemistry from Purdue University in 1949. Robinson was interviewed by numerous corporations while studying at Purdue University, and decided that DuPont was the best place to do research. Subsequently, he moved his family to Wilmington, Delaware, and joined DuPont as a bench chemist. Robinson worked initially in Frank Gresham's research group trying to make a polyimide from a monoamine. By 1952, he successfully made a high-molecular-weight polyimide from a long-chain diamine. In that same year, Robinson was made a supervisor at DuPont. Robinson's group is credited with numerous chemical innovations, such as coordination polymerization, and copolymers of ethylene-sulfur dioxide. Robinson retired from DuPont as a research chemist in 1981 and joined Indiana University as a visiting scientist. Moreover, Robinson has been teaching genealogy at the Academy of Lifelong Learning for over 10 years. In 2000, Robinson was awarded the Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement. Robinson concludes the interview with a discussion of Karl Ziegler's and Giulio Natta's work on propylene polymerization, and its relationship to his group's work at DuPont.
|1942||University of Toronto||MA||Chemistry|
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
Indiana University Bloomington
Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement
Table of Contents
Born in Lakeville, Nova Scotia. Father's general store. Moving to Kentville, Nova Scotia. Grade school and high school experiences. Undergraduate studies at Acadia University. Graduate studies at the University of Toronto. Working on the nitration of hexamethylenetetramine. Marriage to Jeannee. Work at Canadian Industries Ltd. Military service. Studying at Purdue University.
Moving to Wilmington, Delaware. Attending the World's Fair in 1939. Polyamide research in Frank Gresham's research group. The development of "Polymer E. " Frank Gresham's management style. Polyethylene research with Arthur Anderson and N. G. Merckling. Working on coordination polymerization. The dispute over the U. S. patent for polypropylene.
Donald H. Payne. Herbert S. Eleuterio. Rudolph B. de Jong. Making the ethylene sulfur-dioxide copolymer. Investigating potentially useful by-products at various DuPont facilities. Amalgamating the chemicals business into another department in 1959. Becoming a research associate in the chemicals, dyes, and pigments department. Working with Jay K. Kochi.
DuPont's inability to capitalize on some significant inventions. Dan Strain's reluctance to share Tyvek. Robinson's notes on periodic meetings between the DuPont's groups, involving coordination polymerization. Robinson's thoughts on the organizational structure of DuPont.
Thoughts on winning the Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement. Participating in the Academy of Lifelong Learning. Robinson's family and hobbies. Brief discussion of the book, Science and Corporate Strategy.
About the Interviewer
James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.