Oral history interview with Robert W. Parry

Oral history interview with Robert W. Parry

  • 2002-Jul-19

Robert W. Parry begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood in Ogden, Utah. After graduating from Ogden High School, Parry attended Weber College for two years, where he studied chemistry until his funding ran out. At that point, Parry started performing research for the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. When Rudger H. Walker, Parry's supervisor at the Forest Service, became dean of the College of Agriculture at Utah State University in Logan, Parry followed him, and there received his B.S. in 1940. Parry continued his education, earning his M.S. from Cornell University in 1942 and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1946.

Parry briefly discusses his early career, which included positions at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, the Munitions Development Laboratory at the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, and the University of Utah. Parry then discusses at length his experiences with the Gordon Research Conferences [GRC]. Parry attended his first conference on inorganic chemistry in the 1950s and has attended almost every Inorganic Chemistry Conference since. Parry has served GRC as a conference chairman, as an executive committee member, and as chairman of the board of directors. Parry describes the evolution of GRC through four distinct eras: the Gibson Island Conferences, and the directorships of W. George Parks, Alexander M. Cruickshank, and Carlyle B. Storm. Parry concludes the interview with a discussion of the strengths and importance of GRC.

Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 45 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • October 01, 1917
  • Ogden, Utah, United States
  • December 01, 2006
  • Salt Lake City, Utah, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1940 Utah State University BS Chemistry
1942 Cornell University MS Inorganic Chemistry
1946 University of Illinois at Chicago PhD Inorganic Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of Illinois at Chicago

  • 1943 to 1945 Research Assistant, National Defense Research Committee, Munitions Development Laboratory
  • 1945 to 1946 Teaching Fellow

University of Michigan

  • 1946 to 1969 Faculty Member
  • 1958 to 1969 Professor of Chemisty

Inorganic Chemistry

  • 1960 to 1963 Founding Editor

University of Utah

  • 1969 to 1997 Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
  • 1997 to 2003 Professor Emeritus


Year(s) Award
1972 Manufacturing Chemists Award for College Teaching
1980 Senior US Scientist Award, Alexander Von Humboldt-Stiftung
1985 DSc, honoris causa, Utah State University
1987 First Governor's Medal of Science, State of Utah
1997 DSc,honoris causa, University of Utah

Cite as

Parry, Robert W. (Robert Walter), interviewed by Arthur Daemmrich and Arnold Thackray in University of Utah on July 19, 2002. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0257. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/4j03d083g.

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PDF — 287 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

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads