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Oral history interview with Esther S. Takeuchi

  • 2012-Apr-27
  • 2012-Sep-14

Esther Takeuchi grew up in Akron, Ohio, the youngest of three children. After escaping Soviet Latvia, her father became an electrical engineer for Goodyear Aerospace and her mother a home health worker who also had an economics degree. From an early age, Takeuchi enjoyed science and math. She majored in history and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was often the lone woman in her classes.

Takeuchi completed her PhD in Harold Shechter’s lab at the Ohio State University. She also met her future husband, an inorganic chemist, in a German class at Ohio State. Preferring to “make things rather than measure them,” Takeuchi chose industry over academia, taking a job at Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), working on catalysis. She did postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina, and, when her husband took a job at SUNY Buffalo, she did another postdoc at Buffalo. Still interested in a career in industry, Takeuchi accepted a position as senior chemist at Greatbatch, Inc., a developer of implantable medical devices. She rediscovered the use of silver vanadium oxide (SVO) in oil-drilling batteries and adapted the chemistry for an implantable cardiac defibrillator. During her twenty-three years at Greatbatch, Takeuchi rose up in management positions, culminating in Chief Scientist at the Center for Excellence. From there she went to SUNY Buffalo, becoming Greatbatch Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Chemistry. While there, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Takeuchi’s interest in battery development extended into energy storage, so she moved to SUNY Stony Brook, where she is the Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering in a joint appointment with Brookhaven National Laboratory, to work on large projects with large groups.

Takeuchi has won numerous awards and holds numerous patents. She has published articles and given presentations at Electrochemical Society meetings. Her experience in both industry and academia has given her an unusually broad perspective into the practice of chemistry.

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