James D. Idol begins his interview with a description of his childhood in Harrisonville, Missouri. His interest in chemistry was encouraged by neighbors and by friends. He attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he studied chemistry under Professor Frank Edson and graduated with an A.B. in 1949. He immediately went on to graduate school at Purdue University, where he studied under Dr. Earl McBee. His interest in industrial chemistry led him to minor in chemical engineering. Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 1955, he went to work for Standard Oil of Ohio, where he soon pioneered an economically advantageous process for the production of acrylonitrile. He then served as part of the team that developed a plant in Lima, Ohio for the commercial production of acrylonitrile in a record-breaking three years. He then turned his attention to novel uses for acrylonitrile, which led to Barex® resin, among other things. In 1977, he moved on the Ashland Chemical, where he occupied a position that combined management and scientific duties. At Ashland, he developed the propylene-CO process for methyl methacrylate. His career in industry ended in 1988 when he was invited to become a professor at Rutgers University and head of the Center for Packaging Science and Engineering. He pays special attention to individuals who have influenced him throughout his life, and he concludes with some personal insights on the meanings of innovation, teamwork, and research in science and technology.
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James D. Idol, interviewed by James J. Bohning in Rutgers University on December 8, 1994. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0122. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/1j92g842x.
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