Oral history interview with Frank R. Nissel

Oral history interview with Frank R. Nissel

  • 2002-Mar-20

Frank R. Nissel begins the interview by describing his early childhood and schooling in Berlin, Germany, and subsequent move to Egypt due to the emergence of Adolf Hitler's policies. Arriving in Egypt at the age of seven, Nissel continued his multi-lingual education. After a six-month escape to Jerusalem until the end of World War II, Nissel returned to Egypt to attend the American University at Cairo. He continued his education in the United States, studying chemical engineering at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

He began a successful decade of work with Union Carbide Corporation after earning his M.S. in 1946, finally leaving to become co-founder of Prodex Corporation with Albert Kaufman. At Union Carbide, Nissel focused on vinyl calendaring, but returned to his more mechanical instincts by building extruders in his new business venture. The machinery built at Prodex revolutionized plastics machinery by being more efficient, yet less expensive, than its competitors, making waves with companies like Dow Chemical Company. Nissel continued to improve his products, while ensuring customers a good value. In 1955, Prodex was sold to Koehring Company, and after a brief time of consulting, Nissel joined forces with Welding Engineers Company to form Welex Corporation. At seventy-six years old, Nissel is not ready to retire, but has confidence that when that time comes, the company he founded will be well taken care of. For his innovation and contributions to the plastics industry Nissel has earned many honors and awards, including membership in the Plastics Hall of Fame. Nissel concludes the interview by sharing a bit about his family today, as well as interests outside of the work sphere, especially the jazz music scene.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 31 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 G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

Physical location

Oral history number 0244

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • July 02, 1926
  • Berlin, Germany
  • August 28, 2014
  • Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1945 American University in Cairo BS
1946 Virginia Polytechnic Institute MS Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Union Carbide Corporation

  • 1946 to 1956

Prodex Corporation

  • 1956 to 1966 Co-Founder, Vice President

Welex, Inc.

  • 1967 to 2003 Co-Founder, President, CEO


Year(s) Award
1992 SPE Extrusion Division Distinguished Service Award
1993 Fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers
1995 SPE International Award in Business Management
2000 Plastics Hall of Fame Inductee

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PDF — 329 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

7 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads