Oral history interview with Orlando Aloysius Battista

Oral history interview with Orlando Aloysius Battista

  • 1992-Feb-23

O. A. Battista begins the interview by describing his childhood in Cornwall, Canada, as one of eight siblings born to a poor, uneducated laborer and a housewife. Battista proudly details his family's hard-working nature and the many professional accomplishments of his brothers, who include a chemist and company president and a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Attending McGill University along with his younger brother, Battista earned a B.S. in chemistry while supporting his household by writing epigrams for the Saturday Evening Post.

Upon graduation Battista obtained a research chemist position at American Viscose Corporation, which was owned by Courtaulds, Canada, where his brother was well established and later became president. He worked on the rubber program and other war-related projects until the end of the war, when he married Helen Keffer and began inventing successful commercial products.

Later, his work at American Viscose and its predecessor FMC earned him over sixty-five patents, including patents on viscose molding, novel yarn, pure cellulose, and microcrystalline collagen. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Battista wrote and published several works, including technical scientific texts, popular magazine articles on chemistry, a "human interest" chemistry text, an examination of the potential of psychopharmaceuticals, and several popular non-scientific collections. In the early 1960s, Battista realized the medical applications of microcrystalline collagen and obtained pharmaceutical backing from Alcon to license the substance as the patented hemostat Avitene. American Viscose and Alcon formed Avicon, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, and appointed Battista vice president for science and technology; Avicon obtained FDA approval for Avitene Hemostat, which today is used worldwide in hospital operating rooms. In 1974 Battista took early retirement from Avicon to start his own research institute and promote an Olympiad of Science that encourages and facilitates new product innovations. His institute created over fifty-five new products and publishes of Knowledge Magazine.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 62 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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.

Physical location

Oral history number 0103

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • June 20, 1917
  • Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
  • October 03, 1995
  • Tarrant County, Texas, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1940 McGill University BSc (First Class Honors) Chemistry

Professional Experience

American Viscose Corporation

  • 1940 to 1963 Research Chemist
  • 1940 to 1963 Senior Research Chemist
  • 1940 to 1963 Manager, Corporate Applied Research
  • 1961 to 1963 Assistant Director, Corporate Research

FMC Corporation

  • 1963 to 1974 Assistant Director, Central Research

Avicon, Inc.

  • 1971 to 1974 Vice President, Science and Technology

Research Services Corporation

  • 1975 to 1993 Chairman, President, Chief Executive Officer

University of Texas at Arlington

  • 1975 to 1976 Adjunct Professor of Chemistry and Director, Center for Microcrystal Polymer Science

O.A. Battista Research Institute

  • 1976 to 1993 Chairman, President, Chief Executive Officer

World Olympiads of Knowledge

  • 1976 to 1993 Founder and President

American Institute of Chemists

  • 1977 to 1979 President

Fastcrete Corporation

  • 1984 to 1993 President and Chief Executive Officer

Avacare, Incorporated

  • 1985 to 1993 Director

Knowledge, Inc.

  • 1986 to 1993 Chairman, President, Founder

Carrington Laboratories

  • 1987 to 1993 Director


Year(s) Award
1955 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, St. Vincent College
1955 Fellow, National Association of Science Writers
1965 Honor Scroll Award, New Jersey Chapter, American Institute of Chemists
1967 Honor Scroll Award, Philadelphia Chapter, American Institute of Chemists
1969 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1969 Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences
1971 Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement
1972 Boss of the Year, National Secretaries Association
1973 James T. Grady Award, American Chemical Society
1977 to 1979 President and Chief Executive Officer, American Institute of Chemists
1981 Lifetime Fellow, National Association of Science Writers
1983 Creative Invention Medal, American Chemical Society
1984 Special Mention, Rolex Awards for Enterprise
1985 Anselme Payen Medal, American Chemical Society
1985 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Clarkson University
1986 Napoleon Hill Gold Medal for Creative Achievement
1987 Applied Polymer Science Medal, American Chemical Society

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PDF — 355 KB

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

8 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads