Harold A. Scheraga
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Harold Scheraga starts this interview by recalling his childhood in Monticello, New York and then in Brooklyn, where he attended Brooklyn Boys High School. There he was attracted to Latin and mathematics. Scheraga decided to concentrate on chemistry only when he began attending the City College of New York. In the late thirties, CCNY graduates met some difficulties when trying to continue to graduate school. However, Scheraga was offered a place at Duke University, where the chemistry department was chaired by Paul Gross, himself a CCNY graduate. Along with his graduate research on the Kerr effect, Scheraga contributed to the wartime projects on the frangible bullet and on gas-phase halogenation. Influenced in part by the Cohn and Edsall book Peptides, Amino-Acids and Proteins, Scheraga consolidated his growing interest in biochemical areas by a postdoctoral year at Harvard. From there, he was appointed as an instructor in the chemistry department at Cornell, where he has spent the rest of his career, including a period (1960-1967) as chairman. During the 1970s, he was also a visiting professor at the Weizmann Institute. In the second part of his interview with Bohning, Scheraga describes the development of his research activities He first goes into the hydrodynamic properties of polymer solutions, which then led to his extensive work on protein structure and function. Scheraga also recounts his achievements as departmental chairman, with the construction of the new chemistry building and the appointment of new faculty. International collaboration has always been important to Scheraga, and he details his sabbaticals at the Carlsberg laboratory and his later association with the Weizmann Institute.
|1941||City College of New York||BS||Chemistry|
Harvard Medical School
Weizmann Institute of Science
|1956 to 1957||
Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Research Scholar, Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen
Eli Lilly Award, American Chemical Society
Honorary DSc, Duke University
Welch Foundation Lecturer, University of Texas
Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Research Scholar, Weizmann Institute, Rehovoth, Israel
Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Harvey Lecturer, New York
|1968 to 1969||
Gallagher Lecturer, City College of New York
Townsend Harris Lecturer, City College of New York
Lemieux Lecturer, University of Ottawa
Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society
Hill Lecturer, Duke University
City College Chemistry Alumni Scientific Achievement Award Medal
Kendall Award, Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, American Chemical Society
Venable Lecturer, University of North Carolina
Linderstrøm-Lang Medal, Carlsberg Laboratory
Kowalski Medal, International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis
Pauling Medal, Puget Sound and Oregon Sections, American Chemical Society
Honorary Life Member, New York Academy of Sciences
Honorary Member, Hungarian Biophysical Society
Mobil Award in Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society
Repligen Award for Chemistry of Biological Processes, American Chemical Society
Table of Contents
Growing up in Monticello and Brooklyn, New York. Father as businessman. Brooklyn Boys High School, teachers and curriculum.
Decision to major in chemistry at City College. Courses at CCNY, colleagues and faculty; the political atmosphere. Search for graduate school.
Research with Paul Gross and Marcus Hobbs on the Kerr effect. Interaction with Fritz London. Wartime projects; the frangible bullet; gas-phase halogenation. Graduate courses. Marriage. Developing interest in biochemistry, postdoctoral year at Harvard.
Appointment as instructor, contact with Flory and Debye. Research on macromolecular hydrodynamic properties. Protein structure; graduate students and coworkers. Sabbatical leave at the Carlsberg laboratory. Hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic interactions, helix-coil transitions. The thrombin/fibrinogen reaction. Protein folding. Chairman of chemistry department at Cornell, appointment of new faculty, new building, and the undergraduate laboratory design. Modern trends in chemistry. Nomenclature of polypeptides. Further reflections of Cornell, international collaborations.
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.