Oral history interview with Jerome A. Berson

Oral history interview with Jerome A. Berson

  • 2001-Mar-21

Jerome Berson begins this interview with a discussion about his family, his early interest in chemistry, and his childhood in Florida. After high school, Berson attended college at City College of New York. He then attended Columbia University, where he received both his A.M. and Ph.D. Berson went on to do postdoctoral work at Harvard University. Berson held various academic positions at the University of Southern California, Wisconsin, and Yale. Berson credits William von Eggers Doering, Robert Burns Woodward, Saul Winstein, and Herbert Brown as all having profound influence on his career. He talks about his transformation from a natural-products chemist to a physical-organic chemist and the influence of the work of Erich Huckel. He discusses in some detail several of his major research efforts, and comments extensively on the importance of M.O. theory, funding, and the role of government in the support of science. Berson concludes the interview with thoughts on the present and future of organic chemistry and physical organic chemistry.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 102 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 Interviewer

Leon Gortler is a professor of chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He holds AB and MS degrees from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard University where he worked with Paul Bartlett. He has long been interested in the history of chemistry, in particular the development of physical organic chemistry, and has conducted over fifty oral and videotaped interviews with major American chemists.

Physical location

Oral history number 0196

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 10, 1924
  • Sanford, Florida, United States
  • January 13, 2017


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1944 City University of New York. City College BS Chemistry
1947 Columbia University AM Chemistry
1949 Columbia University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

United States. Army

  • 1944 to 1946

Roche Diagnostics

  • 1944

University of Southern California

  • 1950 to 1953 Assistant Professor
  • 1953 to 1958 Associate Professor
  • 1958 to 1963 Professor

University of Wisconsin--Madison

  • 1963 to 1969 Professor

Yale University

  • 1969 to 1979 Professor
  • 1979 to 1992 Irénée du Pont Professor
  • 1992 to 1994 Sterling Professor
  • 1994 to 2002 Sterling Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Senior Research Scientist


Year(s) Award
1949 National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard University (R. B. Woodward)
1963 Award, American Chemical Society, California Section
1970 National Academy of Sciences
1971 American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1978 James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1980 US Senior Scientist Award, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
1985 William H. Nichols Medal, American Chemical Society, New York Section
1987 Roger Adams Award, American Chemical Society
1992 Arthur C. Cope Award, American Chemical Society
1998 Oesper Award, American Chemical Society, Cincinnati Section
2000 Literature Award, German Chemical Industry Fund

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PDF — 610 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

12 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads