Oral history interview with Allen G. Debus

Oral history interview with Allen G. Debus

  • 2007-Mar-29
Photograph of Allen G. Debrus
CHF Collections, Photograph by Douglas Lockard

Allen G. Debus grew up in Evanston, a suburb to the north of Chicago, where he attended public schools. He earned a BS in chemistry, with almost enough credits for a second major in history. After working at Abbott Laboratories for about five years, Debus decided to seek a Ph.D. in the history of science, at Harvard University under I. Bernard Cohen. He accepted an assistant professorship at University of Chicago and became the first director of the Morris Fishbein Center for the Study of the History of Science and Medicine. Debus wanted to study the place of chemistry in the scientific revolution with materials available to all; to that end he has a large collection of rare books from this time period, a collection he began in the early 1940's. He says that he has about 650 such books, the earliest from 1501.

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Original file type PDF, MP3, JPEG
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  • 65 pages
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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

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

Department
Collection

Interviewee biographical information

Born
  • August 16, 1926
  • Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died
  • March 06, 2009
  • Lake County, Illinois, United States

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1947 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) BS Chemistry
1949 Indiana University, Bloomington AM History (assistant to John J. Murray)
1961 Harvard University PhD History of Science (under I. B. Cohen)

Professional Experience

Abbott Laboratories

  • 1951 to 1956 Research and Development Chemist

Harvard University

  • 1957 to 1959 Teaching Fellowship

University of Chicago

  • 1961 to 1965 Assistant Professor of the History of Science
  • 1965 to 1968 Associate Professor of the History of Science
  • 1968 to 1978 Professor of the History of Science
  • 1971 to 1977 Director, Morris Fishbein Center for the study of the History of Science and Medicine
  • 1978 to 1996 Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine
  • 1996 to 2008 Morris Fishbein Professor Emeritus of the History of Science and Medicine

Honors

Year(s) Award
1957 to 1958 Bowdoin Award in the Natural Sciences
1959 to 1960 Fulbright and Social Science Research Council Fellowship
1960 to 1961 Fels Foundation Fellowship
1961 to 1962 American Philosophical Society Research Grant
1961 to 1963 National Science Foundation Research Grant
1962 to 1970 National Institutes of Health Research Grant
1966 to 1967 Overseas Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge
1966 to 1967 Guggenheim Fellowship
1969 Overseas Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge
1971 to 1974 National Science Foundation Research Grant
1972 to 1973 Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
1974 to 1975 National Institutes of Health Research Grant
1975 to 1976 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, The Newberry Library, Chicago
1977 to 1978 National Science Foundation Research Grant
1977 to 1978 National Institutes of Health Research Grant
1978 Edward Kremers Award of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy
1978 Member, Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award Committee
1978 Pfizer Book Award, History of Science Society
1980 to 1981 National Science Foundation Research Grant
1980 Member, Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award Committee
1981 to 1982 Fellow, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin
1981 to 1983 National Science Foundation Research Grant
1982 Appointed to the International Advisory Committee, the Cohn Institute for the History of Science and Ideas of Tel-Aviv University and the Sidney M. Edelstein Center for the History of Philosophy of Science of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
1983 Invited Lecturer, University of Coimbra
1984 to 1985 Visiting Distinguished Professor, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona State University
1985 DSc, Honorary, Catholic University of Louvain
1985 to 1986 Consultant, Literature and Science Curriculum, Georgia Institute of Technology
1987 NEH Fellow, The Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, D. C. )
1987 Elected Foreign Associate Member, Académico Correspondente Estrangeiro (Classe de Ciências) Académia das Ciências de Lisboa
1987 Dexter Award, American Chemical Society
1988 Member, International Program Committee, Portuguese meeting of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science
1990 Visiting Lecturer, Insituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici
1990 Visiting Professor, Instituto de Química, Universidade de Sãn Paulo, Brazil
1992 to 1993 Consultant to the History of Medicine Library of the National Library of Medicine for the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Paracelsus
1992 to 1997 National Institutes of Health Research Grant
1993 to 1996 Appointed to the International Advisory Committee, the Cohn Institute for the History of Science and Ideas of Tel Aviv University
1994 Sarton Medal, History of Science Society
1996 Distinguished Lecturer, History of Science Society

Cite as

Allen G. Debus, interviewed by James J. Bohning in Deerfield, Illinois on March 29, 2007. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0365. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/3n203z96r.

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PDF — 2.7 MB
Debus_AG_0365_FULL.pdf

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

7 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads