Oral history interview with James B. Nichols

Oral history interview with James B. Nichols

  • 1986-Jan-14 (First session)
  • 1986-Jan-16 (Second session)

Raised primarily by his widowed mother, Nichols won scholarships to help him through his undergraduate studies of chemistry at Cornell, where he completed a senior research project with Wilder D. Bancroft. At Bancroft's urging, Burton Nichols met Svedberg, who was then on his way to Wisconsin on sabbatical leave, and followed him to Madison. His introduction to sedimentation techniques was by construction of a pioneer optical centrifuge and its use in pigment characterization. Recollections of this period are followed by an account of his arrival at the Du Pont Experimental Station to work in Kraemer's group, starting with the application of ultracentrifugal techniques to industrial problems. During his long career at Du Pont, Nichols was involved in the evolution of new instruments and polymer characterization. The interview concludes with Nichols recalling colleagues, Du Pont management and organization, as well as his professional society activities.

Property Value
Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 83 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Raymond C. Ferguson obtained his degrees in chemistry from Iowa State University (BS, MS) and Harvard University (PhD). He worked in research divisions of the Organic Chemicals, Elastomer Chemicals, and Central Research Departments of DuPont, principally in molecular spectroscopy, organic structure analysis, and polymer characterization. Currently he is affiliated with CONDUX, Inc., a consulting association of former DuPont professionals.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • February 25, 1902
  • Danbury, Connecticut, United States
  • July 14, 1995
  • New Castle, Delaware, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1923 Cornell University BS Chemistry
1924 University of Wisconsin--Madison MS Chemistry
1927 University of Wisconsin--Madison PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

  • 1927 to 1942 Research Chemist
  • 1942 to 1953 Head, Physics Section
  • 1953 to 1966 Supervisor, Physics and Analytical Division

Cite as

James Burton Nichols, interviewed by Raymond C. Ferguson in Wilmington, Delaware on January 16, 1986. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0034. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/02870x01s.

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PDF — 4.2 MB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads