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Oral history interview with Richard S. Stein

  • 1987-Jun-17

Richard Stein starts this interview by reflecting on the New York City schools which provided a real stimulus, especially in mathematics and science, to him and his contemporaries. At Brooklyn Technical High School, he took a more vocational set of courses, thinking that the family resources would not cover college study. Contrary to that belief, Stein was able to attend to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, and under the wartime circumstances, he was able to graduate within three years, including a productive senior project on light scattering with Paul Doty. Stein then accepted a Textile Foundation fellowship at Princeton University. In the three years of his PhD program, he worked under a succession of three advisors: Henry Eyring, Robert Rundle, and Arthur Tobolsky. During this section of the interview, Stein describes the organization of graduate study in chemistry at Princeton and recollects Eyring, Taylor, Rundle, and Tobolsky. An NRC fellowship took Richard Stein from Princeton to Cambridge to work on infrared dichroism under Gordon Sutherland, and he recalls the austerities of life in postwar England and the primitive facilities in the Cambridge physical chemistry laboratories. Soon after his return to this country, Stein was appointed to an assistant professorship in the chemistry department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Stein describes his heavy teaching load, how he started his research program, and the growth of polymer interests at UMass. The latter led to the inauguration of the Polymer Research Institute at UMass, and Stein reflects on the academic interactions between chemistry and polymer science. The interview concludes with recollections of the visit of a chemistry delegation to China and also with his views on research funding.

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