Louis C. Rubens

Born: November 9, 1919 | Escanaba, MI, US
Died: December 1, 2013 | Midland, MI, US

Louis Rubens discusses his early life in Escanaba, Michigan, the development of his interests in mathematics and chemistry, and his difficulties in finishing his studies when Jordan College closed due to financial difficulties, leaving Rubens to earn only an associate's degree. Unable to transfer to another institution, Rubens took a position at Dow and in time rose through the ranks of research, working on the stabilization and impact enhancement of polystyrene, the production of co-polymers, and the development of the composite foam system. Rubens also comments on the importance of management support for research and the future of the foam industry. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0048
No. of pages: 42
Minutes: 193

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
19 August 1986
Midland, Michigan

Abstract of Interview

Louis Rubens begins the interview by discussing his family background and early education. Rubens grew up in Escanaba, Michigan, where his parents ran a tourist park. He attended parochial school, and he credits his teachers there for sparking his interest in mathematics and chemistry. After high school, Rubens followed in the footsteps of his older brother and attended Jordan College. There, he studied chemistry, and when the school closed in 1939 due to financial difficulties, Rubens received his Associate's degree. Though he tried to transfer to other colleges, he was not successful and soon decided to take a position at Dow. Rubens rose through the ranks of research, working on the stabilization and impact enhancement of polystyrene, the production of co-polymers, and the development of the composite foam system. Rubens concludes the interview with a discussion of the importance of management support for research, the influence of H. H. Dow's research philosophy, and the future of the foam industry. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1939 Jordan College AAS Chemistry

Professional Experience

Dow Chemical Company

1940 to 1946
Laboratory Technician
1946 to 1952
1952 to 1962
Group Leader
1962 to 1967
Associate Scientist
1967 to 1992
Research Scientist
1992 to 1996
Research Fellow


Year(s) Award

Herbert H. Dow Award


Saginaw Valley Patent Lawyers Award for Lifetime Inventors


12th International Foamed Plastics Award


Dow Inventor of the Year Award


German Fachverband Schaumkunstoffe Medal for Pioneering Research


Outstanding Achievement Award, Society of Plastics Engineers

Table of Contents

Family Background and Early Education

Growing up in Escanaba, Michigan. Parochial school. Early interest in chemistry and math.

College Education

Decision to attend Jordan College. Influence of professors. Laboratory work. Financial problems of Jordan College. Associate's degree in chemistry.

Early Career

Position as lab helper at Dow. Quality control in styrene production. Influence of Raymond Boyer. Atmosphere of Physics Lab. Work on heat stability of Saran. Attempt to stabilize polystyrene. Production of co-polymers. Writing chapters for book on styrene.

Research Career

Attempt at synthetic rubber. Manufacture of GRS. Impact enhancement of polystyrene. Decision not to become management. Promotions through research ranks. Work in chemotherapy. Ion exchange resins. Urethane chemistry. Styrofoam.

Management at Dow

Importance of management support for research. Foam business as a growth industry. Marketing products worldwide. Influence of H. H. Dow in research philosophy. Looking to market opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Development of composite foam system. Relationship with colleagues.


About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

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.