Max Tishler

Born: October 30, 1906 | Boston, MA, US
Died: March 18, 1989 | Middletown, CT, US

Max Tishler describes his family, early schooling, undergraduate education at Tufts, graduate and postgraduate work at Harvard, and the state of chemistry in the 1930s. The major portion of the interview contains Tishler's impressions of the research and development undertaken by Merck & Co. in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and of his role in that activity. Tishler ends the interview by discussing his current activities at Wesleyan and presenting his views about the future direction of chemistry. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0008
No. of pages: 70
Minutes: 238

Interview Sessions

Leon B. Gortler and John A. Heitmann
14 November 1983
The Library at Wesleyan University

Abstract of Interview

This interview discusses Max Tishler's life and career. Tishler reminisces about his family, early schooling, undergraduate education at Tufts, and graduate and postgraduate work at Harvard. He then talks about his colleagues at Harvard and the state of chemistry in the 1930s. The major portion of the interview contains Tishler's impressions of the research and development undertaken by Merck & Co. in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and of his role in that activity. He also describes individuals involved in that work and the major contributions that Merck & Co. made to combat disease. Tishler ends the interview by discussing his current activities at Wesleyan and presenting his views about the future direction of chemistry. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1928 Tufts University BS Chemistry
1933 Harvard University MA Chemistry
1934 Harvard University PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Harvard University

1930 to 1934
Teaching Fellow
1934 to 1936
Research Associate
1936 to 1937
Instructor

Merck & Company Inc.

1937 to 1941
Research Chemist
1941 to 1944
Section Head in charge of Process Development
1944 to 1953
Director of Development Research
1954 to 1956
Vice President and Executive Director of Science Activities
1957 to 1970
President, Merck, Sharp, & Dohme Research Laboratories
1962 to 1970
Member, Board of Directors
1969 to 1970
Senior Vice President of Research and Development

Wesleyan University

1970 to 1974
Professor, Department of Chemistry
1972
University Professor of the Sciences
1973 to 1974
Chairman of the Chemistry Department
1974 to 1989
Professor Emeritus

Honors

Year(s) Award
1953

Elected to National Academy of Sciences

1961

Medal of the Industrial Research Institute

1963

Rennebohm Lecture Award, School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin

1963

Chemical Industry Award, Society of the Chemical Industry

1964

Lecture Award, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences

1964

Julius W. Sturmer Memorial Lecture Award, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy

1965

Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1968

Chemical Pioneer Award and Gold Medal Award, American Institute of Chemistry

1970

Joseph Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society

1972

Honorary Member, Societe Chimique de France

1974

Fellow, Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Table of Contents

Family and High School Years
1

Max Tishler's children, parents, and siblings. His difficult early years. A job in the pharmacy. Other odd jobs. High school.

Undergraduate Education at Tufts
4

Rationale for attending Tufts. Paying for the education. Prof. C. H. E. Allen recommends Harvard. Textbooks used at Tufts. Successful classmates.

Graduate Education at Harvard
8

A meeting with Prof. Kohler. Other graduate students. More recollections about Kohler. A poor job market.

Postgraduate Research at Harvard
10

James Conant. George Kistiakowsky. A study of hydrogenation. A fire in the lab. Arthur Becket Lamb. Structure determination in the l920s.

Colleagues and Chemistry in the 1930s
15

The efficacy of advanced laboratory equipment. Thomas (Jeff) Webb, Homer Adkins, and Louis Fieser. Kohler's research interests. The allene problem. Conant's presidency. Donald Cram, Melvin Newman, Emma Dietz, Mary Fieser, and Robert Woodward. Consulting. More about Kohler's research.

Research and Colleagues at Merck & Co.
28

How Randolph Major was hired. George Merck, Jr. 's, emphasis upon research. Merck & Co.'s early work with vitamins. How Merck personnel approached research problems. A comparison of Harvard's and Merck's laboratories. The farsightedness of Randolph Major. Karl Folkers. The central role of the Merck labs in the synthesis of vitamins. The synthesis of riboflavin. The role of development and of pilot plants. Vitamin K. W. L. Sampson, Kurt Ladenburg, and Karl Pfister. Aldomet. Movement from laboratory work to directing developmental research. Wartime work at Merck. Effective administration. Recruitment of chemists for Merck.

Development and Administration at Merck & Co.
41

Emphasis upon publication. An evaluation of Per Frolich's impact upon Merck's research and development. The formation of Merck Sharp and Dohme, a beneficial union. Merck's encouragement of its chemists to pursue graduate education. Tishler's responsibilities. Promotion to director of all research and development. Robert Denkewalter and Ralph Mozingo. Merck's penicillin project. Congressional scrutiny of the pharmaceutical industry's wartime record. Vannevar Bush. Decision-making at Merck. A philosophy of administration. Impending retirement from Merck.

Major Contributions
56

Cortisone, streptomycin, penicillin, actinomycin, and penicillamine. Work with the American Chemical Society. Affiliation with the Society of Chemical Industry. Organic Syntheses. Awards.

Current Activities and Interests
60

Teaching at Wesleyan. Publication of papers. Views on the future direction of chemistry. Problems and opportunities. The contributions of Selman Waksman. More awards. Gardening. Student advising.

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.

John A. Heitmann

John A. Heitmann holds a BS degree in chemistry from Davidson College and an MA degree in history from Clemson University. From 1971 to 1977, he worked as a chemist in the metallurgical industry. He then studied at the Johns Hopkins University under Owen Hannaway and received his doctorate in the history of science in 1983.