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Oral history interview with Harold Eugene Thayer

  • 1994-Dec-01

Oral history interview with Harold Eugene Thayer

  • 1994-Dec-01

The interview begins as Harold Eugene Thayer recalls his family background and growing up in Rochester, New York, during the early Depression. He remembers the strong influence of his mother and his decision to attend MIT, where he pursued a course combining chemical engineering and business administration. As the interview continues, Thayer describes his first job, training in sales at American Cyanamid and his decision to leave for a position with Mallinckrodt Chemical Works. At Mallinckrodt, Thayer became involved in work for the War Production Board and then the Manhattan District, where he managed much of the company's uranium processing. The central portion of the interview focuses on Thayer's long-standing outspokenness in management discussions, his relationship with Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. , and his rise through management to presidency of the company. As president, Thayer was responsible for Mallinckrodt's strong growth, accomplished primarily by structural reorganization, developing the company's niche in the diagnostic products market, and making key successful acquisitions. While the interview highlights Thayer's views on the importance of teamwork, selflessness, and integrity throughout the company's work, it also examines some management mistakes and problems over the years. Concluding comments describe Thayer's community affairs work, his views of government regulation and chemical innovation, and his pride in receiving the Society of Chemical Industry Medal.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 35 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

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.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0120

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • March 03, 1912
  • Rochester, New York, United States
  • August 23, 1998
  • St. Louis, Missouri, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1934 Massachusetts Institute of Technology BS Chemical Engineering Administration

Professional Experience

American Cyanamid Company

  • 1934 to 1939 Engineer, Technical Sales Department, Calco Division

Mallinckrodt Chemical Works (Saint Louis, Mo.)

  • 1939 to 1941 Sales Research and Development
  • 1941 to 1943 Coordinator, War Production Board
  • 1943 to 1952 Project Manager, Manhattan District/Atomic Energy Commission Plants
  • 1950 to 1959 Vice President
  • 1952 to 1955 Director of Development
  • 1955 to 1958 Project Manager, Atomic Engery Commission Plant
  • 1959 to 1960 Executive Vice President
  • 1960 to 1978 President
  • 1965 to 1981 Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer
  • 1981 to 1982 Chairman/Director, Executive Committee


Year(s) Award
1969 Silver Beaver Award, Boy Scouts of America
1970 Distinguished Executive of Year, Sales and Marketing Executives of St. Louis
1971 St. Louis Award, National Confederation of Christians and Jews
1971 St. Louis Award, National Jewish Hospital and Research Center
1972 St. Louis Globe-Democrat Man of the Year
1974 Silver Antelope Award, Boy Scouts of America
1974 Right Arm St. Louis Award
1974 St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association
1974 University of Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering
1976 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

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PDF — 248 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

5 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads