Henry Taube

Born: November 30, 1915 | Neudorf, SK, CA
Died: Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | Stanford, CA, US

Henry Taube begins his oral history discussing  his chemistry career at Cornell University, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. Taube also discusses his research on mass spectrometry with Frank H. Westheimer and  Willard H. Libby. 

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0298
No. of pages: 19
Minutes: 70

Interview Sessions

Leon B. Gortler
19 March 1986
New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Henry Taube begins his interview with a description of his early career at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley, and cites some of the reasons for his decision to accept a position at the University of Chicago. While at Cornell, Taube felt suffocated by the authoritarian style of compartmentalized departments. Taube also felt some level of separation at the University of Chicago between department members and members of the Institute for the Study of Metals and the Institute for Nuclear Studies. In 1956, he became chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Chicago. Taube then discusses his relationship with Warren Johnson, the dean of the physical sciences, who he felt helped the department survive in terms of balancing the budget and finding financial support. Taube then reflects on the history of the chemistry department and the various members of the faculty who ran the department in its early years. Next, Taube discusses his means of funding his research during his early years at the University of Chicago and his work with mass spectrometry. While at the University of Chicago, Taube worked with Frank H. Westheimer, a man he greatly respected, as well as Willard H. Libby, who was a personal friend. As a member of the chemistry faculty, Taube enjoyed numerous discussions with his colleagues and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere where faculty felt encouraged to share their research, which greatly contrasted with the atmosphere at Cornell. Taube also describes a confrontation with Morris S. Kharasch, which he felt greatly affected the early part of his term as chairman. Taube concludes his interview by discussing the ways in which his career as an instructor at Cornell and the research he was involved with negatively affected his first marriage and how he learned later to delegate authority and find balance between his professional and personal life. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1935 University of Saskatchewan BS
1937 University of Saskatchewan MS
1940 University of California, Berkeley PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of California, Berkeley

1940
Instructor

Cornell University

1941 to 1944
Instructor
1944 to 1946
Assistant Professor

University of Chicago

1946 to 1948
Assistant Professor
1948 to 1953
Associate Professor
1953 to 1961
Professor
1956 to 1959
Chairman

Stanford University

1961 to 1986
Professor
1972 to 1974
Chairman
1978 to 1979
Chairman
1986
Professor Emeritus

Honors

Year(s) Award
1949

Guggenheim Fellow

1955

Guggenheim Fellow

1955

American Chemical Society Award for Nuclear Applications in Chemistry

1960

Harrison Howe Award, Rochester Section, American Chemical Society

1964

Chandler Medal, Columbia University

1966

John Gamble Kirkwood Award, New Haven Section, Society

1967

American Chemical Society Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry

1971

Nichols Medal, New York, American Chemical Society

1971

Willard Gibbs Medal, Chicago Section, American Chemical Society

1973

F. P. Dwyer Medal, University of New South Wales, Australia

1973

Honorary Doctorate, (L.L.D.) University of Saskatchewan

1976

Marguerite Blake Wilbur Endowed Professorship

1977

National Medal of Science, Washington, DC

1979

Allied Chemical Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Innovative Science

1979

Degree of PhD honoris causa of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

1980

T. W. Richards Medal of the Northeastern Section, American Chemical Society

1981

American Chemical Society Award in Inorganic Chemistry of the Monsanto Company

1981

The Linus Pauling Award, Puget Sound Section, American Chemical Society

1983

National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences

1983

Bailar Medal, University of Illinois

1983

Doctor of Science, University of Chicago

1983

Robert A. Welch Foundation Award in Chemistry

1983

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

1984

Doctor of Science, Polytechnic Institute, New York

1984

Honorary Member, College of Chemists of Catalonia and Beleares

1985

Priestly Medal, American Chemical Society

1985

Doctor of Science, State University of New York

1985

Corresponding Member, Academy of Arts and Science of Puerto Rico

1986

Honorary Member, Canadian Society for Chemistry

1986

Distinguished Achievement Award, International Precious Metals Institute

1986

The Oesper Award, The Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society

1987

Doctor of Science, University of Guelph

1988

Honorary Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

1988

Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Seton Hall University

1988

Doctor of Science, Lajos Kossuth University of Debrecen, Hungary

1989

Honorary Fellowship, Royal Society of Chemistry

1989

Honorary Fellowship, Indian Chemical Society

1990

G. M. Kosolapoff Award, Auburn Section, American Chemical Society

1990

Doctor of Science, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

Early Career Choices
1

Cornell University. German system. Highly compartmentalized. Professor Albert W. Laubergayer. Wilder D. Bancroft. James Lynn and Florence Hoard. Simon H. Bauer. Thor Rubin. University of California, Berkeley.

University of Chicago
2

The Institute for the Study of Metals and the Institute for Nuclear Studies. Warren Johnson. Position as chairman of the chemistry department. Robert Maynard Hutchins. Julius O. Stieglitz. Morris S. Kharasch. Grant Urry. The Office of Naval Research.

Recollections of Career
5

Harold Urey. Frank H. Westheimer. Personal friends with Willard F. Libby and wife, Lorelie. Franck-Condon restriction to the thermal electron transfer process. Paper for Linus C. Pauling's birthday celebration. Enjoyable discussion sessions with chemists. Conflict with Morris S. Kharasch.

Conclusion
13

Philosophy on high-pressure careers. First marriage. Balancing personal and professional life. Second marriage.

Postscript
15
Notes
16
Index
17

About the Interviewer

Leon B. Gortler

Leon Gortler is a professor of chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He holds AB and MS degrees from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard University where he worked with Paul Bartlett. He has long been interested in the history of chemistry, in particular the development of physical organic chemistry, and has conducted over fifty oral and videotaped interviews with major American chemists.