Herman E. Schroeder

Born: July 6, 1915 | Brooklyn, NY, US
Died: Saturday, November 28, 2009 | New Castle, DE, US
Photograph of Herman Schroeder

CHF Collections, Photograph by Ray Ferguson

Herman Schroeder starts his oral history interview by discussing his family background and growing up in Brooklyn. After an early graduation he entered Harvard and set his mind on chemistry, in part influenced by his tutor, John Edsall. Staying on at Harvard for graduate study in the physical aspects of organic chemistry, Schroeder investigated the rates and mechanism of large ring closure. Arriving at the Du Pont Experimental Station in 1938, Schroeder outlines his initial assignments and his important wartime research on tire cord adhesives. Transferring to the Jackson Laboratories, he worked on both dyestuff synthesis and the mechanisms of dyeing synthetic fibers, as well as obtaining experience in production control. Moving to greater research responsibilities, Schroeder played an important role in the development of several polymers, which is described towards the end of the first interview. The interview concludes with some of Schroeder's retirement activities and a full account of the Louisville plant explosion.

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0063
No. of pages: 86
Minutes: 302

Interview Sessions

Raymond C. Ferguson
30 December 1986 and 12 January 1987

Abstract of Interview

Herman Schroeder starts the interview by discussing his family background and growing up in Brooklyn. An early learner, Schroeder attended public and private high schools where his scientific interests were first aroused. After an early graduation he entered Harvard, and initially planned for a career in medicine. However, Schroeder soon set his mind on chemistry, in part influenced by his tutor, John Edsall. Staying on at Harvard for graduate study in the physical aspects of organic chemistry, Herman Schroeder investigated the rates and mechanism of the closure of large rings. He discusses the choice between industrial and academic careers and the advice of the Harvard faculty. Arriving at the DuPont Experimental Station in 1938, Schroeder outlines his initial assignments and his important wartime research on tire cord adhesives. Transferring to the Jackson Laboratories, he worked on both dyestuff synthesis and the mechanisms of dyeing synthetic fibers, as well as obtaining experience in production control. Moving to greater research responsibilities, Schroeder played an important role in the development of several polymers, which is described towards the end of the first interview. In a second interview, Ferguson asks Schroeder to comment on some of his DuPont colleagues and on some of the academic consultants to the company. The interview concludes with some of Schroeder's retirement activities and a full account of the Louisville plant explosion.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1936 Harvard University AB Chemistry
1937 Harvard University AM Chemistry
1939 Harvard University PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

1938 to 1945
Research Chemist, Chemical Department
1945 to 1946
Research Chemist, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory
1946 to 1948
Research Supervisor, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory
1949 to 1950
Research Division Head, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory
1951 to 1956
Assistant Laboratory Director, Organic Chemicals Department, Jackson Laboratory
1957 to 1963
Assistant Director of Research, Elastomer Chemicals Department
1963 to 1965
Director of Research, Elastomer Chemicals Department
1965 to 1980
Director of Research and Development, Elastomer Chemicals Department

Schroeder Scientific Services, Inc.

1980 to 1988

Honors

Year(s) Award
1936

summa cum laude, Harvard University

1936

Phi Beta Kappa

1979

General Award, International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers

1984

Goodyear Medal, American Chemical Society, Rubber Division

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Education
1

Parental background. Prejudice against German name. Public and private schools in New York. Interest in science, early graduation from high school.

Harvard University
5

Concentration on chemistry, Edsall as tutor. Courses and faculty. Graduate study in physical organic chemistry, the rate of closure of large rings. Marriage. Discusses choice of industrial over academic position and reaction of faculty.

Chemical Department of DuPont
17

Intermediates for polymers. Hydrocarbon chlorination, correcting ICI results. Wartime research on tire cord adhesives. Colleagues at the Experimental Station. Patents and reports. Rubbery fluoropolymers.

Jackson Laboratory
26

Dyestuff chemistry. Problems with new pigments plant. Rates and mechanisms of dyeing, dispute with Pauling. Marketing and business strategy. Return to polymers, the polyether-urethanes, segmented copolymers. Fluoropolymers.

Elastomer Chemicals Department
42

Terpolymers with unconjugated dienes. Hypalon. Nordel, patent protection. Viton and successors. Kalrez.

Second Interview
50

Vamac, cost efficiency. Termination of research projects. Research direction in Elastomer Chemicals. DuPont personalities; Charch, Carter, Elley, Holbrook. Academic consultants.

Retirement
59

Advising the Metropolitan Museum of Art on conservation. Chemical consulting. School board, Chester County. Professional organizations, Harvard visiting committee. Industrial safety, the Louisville explosion. Carcinogenic substances, toxicological testing.

Notes
74
Index
79

About the Interviewer

Raymond C. Ferguson

Raymond C. Ferguson obtained his degrees in chemistry from Iowa State University (BS, MS) and Harvard University (PhD). He worked in research divisions of the Organic Chemicals, Elastomer Chemicals, and Central Research Departments of DuPont, principally in molecular spectroscopy, organic structure analysis, and polymer characterization. Currently he is affiliated with CONDUX, Inc., a consulting association of former DuPont professionals.