Paul B. Weisz

Born: July 2, 1919 | Pilsen, CS
Died: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | State College, PA, US

Paul Weisz begins his oral history interview by discussing his family background in Austria-Hungary after World War I period, when his family moved to Berlin. Weisz was educated in the Gymnasium , where he developed an interest in physics and chemistry. Weisz attended the Technical University in Berlin and spent his free time in the laboratory of Wolfgang Kohlhoerster at the Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research, where he worked on Geiger counter instrumentation and cosmic ray measurements. Because of Hitler's rise to power, Weisz arranged an exchange program with Auburn University, earning his BS in physics in 1940. At the Bartol Research Foundation in Pennsylvania, Weisz worked on radiation counting and projects relating to the National Research Defense Council. After gaining clearance to do classified work, he moved to the MIT Radiation Laboratory where he helped to develop a long range navigation trainer (Loran). He accepted a position with Mobil Corporation, where he worked on catalysis. In 1966, he completed his ScD at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zürich, where he had worked with Heinrich Zollinger on dye chemistry. Weisz concludes the interview by discussing innovation in industry, the importance of interdisciplinary thinking, and his later work on Alzheimer's Disease and angiogenesis.

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0141
No. of pages: 60
Minutes: 291

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
27 March 1995
State College, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Paul Weisz begins this interview by discussing his family background. Because of the political uncertainty of Austria-Hungary in the post World War I period, his family moved to Berlin when he was a young boy. Weisz was educated in the Gymnasium, where he was exposed to basic science and developed an interest in physics and chemistry. His father further encouraged him to pursue the sciences, and Weisz remembers building small radios. Weisz attended the Technical University in Berlin and spent his free time in the laboratory of Wolfgang Kohlhoerster at the Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research. There, he worked on Geiger counter instrumentation and cosmic ray measurements. Because of Hitler's rise to power, Weisz decided to come to the United States and arranged an exchange program with Auburn University. He earned his BS in physics from Auburn in 1940 and accepted a research position at the Bartol Research Foundation in Pennsylvania. There, Weisz worked on radiation counting and projects relating to the National Research Defense Council. After gaining clearance to do classified work, he moved to the MIT Radiation Laboratory where he helped to develop a long range navigation trainer (Loran). Weisz returned to Bartol, but soon decided to move away from cosmic ray research. He accepted a position with Mobil Corporation, where he worked on catalysis and cracking catalysts. In the 1950s, Weisz began to investigate zeolites and shape selective catalysis. In 1966, he completed his ScD at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zürich, where he had worked with Heinrich Zollinger on dye chemistry. Weisz concludes the interview by discussing innovation in industry, the importance of interdisciplinary thinking, and his later work on Alzheimer's Disease and angiogenesis.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1939 Technical University, Berlin Physics Study
1940 Auburn University BS Physics
1966 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule) PhD

Professional Experience

Humboldt University

1938 to 1939
Assistant

MIT Radiation Laboratory

1940 to 1946
Research Assistant, Bartol Research Foundation and Project Engineer

Swarthmore College

1942 to 1943
Instructor, Swarthmore College

Mobil Research and Development Corporation

1946 to 1961
Research Associate
1961 to 1967
Senior Scientist
1967 to 1969
Manager, Exploratory Process Research
1969 to 1982
Manager, Central Research Laboratory, Princeton, N.J.
1982 to 1984
Scientific Advisor
1984
Retired

Princeton University

1974 to 1976
Visiting Professor

University of Pennsylvania

1984
Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Bio-Engineering

Self-employed

1984
Consultant

Pennsylvania State University

1993
Adjunct Professor, Chemical Engineering

Honors

Year(s) Award
1972

E. V. Murphy Award in Industrial Engineering Chemistry, American Chemical Society

1974

Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists

1977

Leo Friend Award, American Chemical Society

1977

Elected member, National Academy of Engineering

1978

R. H. Wilhelm Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineering

1980

Honorary Doctorate (ScD, technological science), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

1983

Lavoisier Medal, Société Chimique de France

1983

Langmuir Distinguished Lecturer Award, American Chemical Society

1985

Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry

1986

Chemistry of Contemporary Technological Problems Award, American Chemical Society

1987

Carothers Award, American Chemical Society

1988

DGKM Kollegium Award (Germany)

1992

National Medal of Technology

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Education
1

Family background. Gymnasium and interest in science. Influence of father.

University Education
9

Attendance at Technical University in Berlin. Work in laboratory at Institute of Cosmic Radiation Research. Decision to go to the United States. Exchange with Auburn University.

Bartol Research Foundation
14

Radiation counting. Projects for National Research Defense Council. Work on navigation instrumentation. Clearance for classified work.

Career at Mobil Corporation
20

Research freedom. Work on catalysis and cracking catalysts. Investigation of heterogeneous catalysis. Work on zeolites. Development of selectoforming. Researching shape selective catalysis.

Innovation in Industry
35

Interdisciplinary thinking. Conflict between corporate thinking and research needs.

Retirement
40

Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Interrelation between zeolite work and research on Alzheimer's Disease. Work on angiogenesis. Receiving the Perkin Medal and the National Medal of Technology.

Notes
51
Index
55

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

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.