Bruno H. Zimm
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Bruno Zimm recalls growing up in Woodstock, New York and the influence of his father's interests in natural science. After briefly reviewing his schooldays and his developing fascination with science, Zimm describes his undergraduate and graduate studies at Columbia. During this section of the interview, he recalls faculty and curricula and describes the effect of World War II on the research activities at Columbia. In 1944, Zimm transferred to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute to work on a wartime project on the degradation of polyvinyl chloride. Here, he also first started his study of the theory and practice of the light scattering of polymer solutions, which he continued at the University of California, Berkeley. From there and after a one year sabbatical at Harvard, Zimm moved to the General Electric laboratories at Schenectady, where he further developed his studies of dynamic methods for the investigation of polymer solutions. A short time as a visiting professor at Yale rekindled his interests in biological polymers, especially DNA. At the new University of California, San Diego, campus at La Jolla, Zimm continued instrumental research as well as his theoretical interests, which he briefly reviews. The interview closes with Zimm reflecting on the changes in polymer science over the duration of his career, and he comments on educational opportunities in this discipline.
Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York
University of California, Berkeley
General Electric Company
University of California, San Diego
Baekland Award, North Jersey Section, American Chemical Society
Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
Bingham Medal, Society of Rheology
High Polymer Physics Award, American Physical Society
Chemical Sciences Award, National Academy of Sciences
Kirkwood Medal, New Haven Section, American Chemical Society
Table of Contents
Growing up in an artistic family and a rural environment. Grade school, father's interests in natural science. High school and boarding school; development of scientific interests. Effects of the Depression.
Columbia, faculty and curricula. Graduate school, courses and teachers, effects of the war. Summer research on smoke screens. Graduate research, friendship with Doty.
Wartime project at Brooklyn Polytechnic on the degradation of PVC films. Colleagues and faculty. Light scattering, experiment and theory. Move to Berkeley, expansion of light scattering work and initial interest in biological polymers. Critical point phenomena. Sabbatical year at Harvard.
Atmosphere at General Electric laboratories, laboratory organization and colleagues. Research into dynamic methods for polymer solutions. Visiting professorship at Yale, work on DNA.
Appointment at the new campus at La Jolla. Setting up department and research school. Instrumental developments, dynamic viscoelasticity. Reflections on the changes in polymer science during career, on polymer science education and on textbooks.
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.