Frederick T. Wall
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Frederick Wall begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and childhood in Minnesota. During high school, Wall developed an interest in chemistry and mathematics, and planned to become a chemical engineer. He attended the University of Minnesota, studying both chemistry and chemical engineering. One of his professors there, George Glockler, influenced both his decision to focus on physical chemistry and to pursue graduate work. After graduating with a BS in chemistry in 1933, Wall was awarded an assistantship at Caltech, which he accepted. Due to financial difficulties exacerbated by the Depression, he only spent a year at Caltech. While he was there, however, he was greatly influenced by Linus Pauling. Wall moved back to the University of Minnesota, and continued his graduate work under Glockler. He earned his PhD in chemistry in 1935, and soon thereafter accepted a teaching position at the University of Illinois. He began working on infrared spectroscopy, and did some theoretical work on covalent and ionic character. Gradually, he became interested in polymers, and when World War II broke out, he volunteered to work on the rubber problem. Carl Marvel and Roger Adams then helped Wall to get a consulting job with DuPont, which he continued for many years. In 1955, he became Dean of the graduate college at Illinois. In 1963, Wall decided to leave Illinois and moved to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he became Chairman of the chemistry department and Vice Chancellor for Research at Santa Barbara and later Vice Chancellor for Research at San Diego. In 1969, he became executive director of the American Chemical Society (ACS), but soon rejoined academia, becoming professor of chemistry at Rice University. At Rice, Wall resumed his theoretical polymer research, particularly polymer configuration on lattices. Seven years later, he moved back to California, taking a lecturing position at San Diego State University, and in 1981 becoming an adjunct professor at the University of California at San Diego. The interview concludes with a discussion of his time at the ACS and his colleagues in California.
|1933||University of Minnesota||BS||Chemistry|
|1937||University of Minnesota||PhD||Chemistry|
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, San Diego
American Chemical Society
San Diego State University
Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society
Outstanding Achievement Award, University of Minnesota
Member, National Academy of Sciences
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Table of Contents
Finnish parents. Siblings. Grade school in Chisolm, Minnesota. High school in Minneapolis. Interest in chemistry and mathematics.
Attending University of Minnesota. Pursuing chemistry and chemical engineering. Decision to become physical chemist. Influence of George Glockler. Desire to earn PhD.
Assistantship at Caltech. Working with Linus Pauling. Introduction to quantum mechanics. Leaving Caltech. Returning to University of Minnesota. Working with Glockler. Reflections on colleagues.
Decision to take an academic job. Enjoyment of teaching. Research on infrared spectroscopy. Theoretical work. Interest in polymers. Synthetic Rubber Research Program. Consulting for DuPont. Chairing University Research Board. Interest in computers. Monte Carlo simulation. Becoming dean. Pauling's lectures and decision to sign non-Communist oath. Edward Yellin case.
Decision to leave Illinois. Position at University of California at Santa Barbara. Leaving Santa Barbara for San Diego. Getting Pauling a position at UCSD. Inability to continue research.
Position at Rice University. Welch Foundation grant. Polymer research. Discrete systems. Macromolecular configurations. Teaching at San Diego State University. Adjunct position at UCSD. Book on chemical thermodynamics. Consulting at Shell. Remembering Paul Flory, Peter Debye. Election to National Academy of Sciences. Relationship with Harold Urey.
Accepting job of executive director. Difficulties of position. Interactions with Melvin Calvin. Chemical and Engineering News.
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.