John Christian Warner
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
John C. Warner begins the interview with a discussion of his family and childhood years growing up on a farm. He developed an interest in science in high school due to the encouragement of his science teacher, G. W. Warner. He enrolled in Indiana University in 1915. There, he received his AB in chemistry in 1919, his M.A. in 1920, and his PhD in 1923. While in college, Warner worked for the Barrett Company working on synthetic phenol processing. As a graduate student, he was a research chemist for the Cosden Oil Company. After working for Cosden for just under a year, he returned to Indiana University as a chemistry instructor while completing his graduate studies. In 1926, he joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie Mellon University) as a chemistry instructor. Warner spent the rest of his career at Carnegie. He rose through the university ranks, eventually becoming president of Carnegie Mellon in 1950. Warner restructured and developed the University's chemistry department. During his time at Carnegie, he worked closely with Charles Thomas on the chemistry, metallurgy, and plutonium purification aspects of the Manhattan Project. He also served as a liaison between Oak Ridge Laboratories and Monsanto Company for this project. Warner became a board member of Jones and Laughlin, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, and served as director of Spang and Company. Warner concludes the interview with a discussion of his family and reflections on his role in the advanced educational development in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Cosden Oil Company
Wayne Chemicals Corporation
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Pittsburgh Junior Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Award
Pittsburgh Graphic Arts Council Award
Horatio Alger Award
Western Pennsylvania Board of Industrial Realtors Award
Pennsylvania Award for Excellence in Education
Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indiana University
Table of Contents
Parents and grandparents. Childhood on tenant farm. Early interest in science. Inspiring science teacher.
Fraternity and football activities. Faculty members. Chemistry department. Academic chemistry in the 1920s. Colleagues at Indiana University.
Wartime research at the Barrett Company. J. Bennett Hill. Harold Urey and other colleagues. Cosden Oil Company. Racial tension in Oklahoma. Louise Hamer.
Carnegie Tech chemistry department. Harry Seltz. History of Carnegie Tech. Developing graduate courses and choosing texts. Funding for graduate students. President Doherty. Kinetics research. Goals and guidelines for chemical education. Remembering graduate students: Paul Fugassi, Bill Svirbely, Dave McKinney, Sam Eagle and others.
Farrington Daniels, Morris Kharasch, Jack Kirkwood, George Scatchard, Charles Price and Tom McCutcheon. Work of Martin Kilpatrick. Speakers at Carnegie Tech. Early years of chemistry department. Anti-Semitism in chemical profession.
Glenn Seaborg and the Chicago Group. The Hanford piles. Coordinating research. The bomb. Liaison between Monsanto and Oak Ridge.
Slow beginnings. Becoming president of Carnegie Tech. Fundraising. Influence of Ben Fairless. Mellons and Scaifes. Educational goals.
Jones & Laughlin, PPG, and the Dravo Corporation. Spang and Co. Louise Warner. ACS activities. Election to the Academy. Nuclear powered airplane. I. I. Rabi.
Future of fundamental research. Children. Science and engineering in developing nations. The Ford Foundation and UNESCO.
About the Interviewer
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.