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Oral history interview with William F. Little

  • 2007-Jan-05

Oral history interview with William F. Little

  • 2007-Jan-05

William F. Little discusses his early life in a small town and education, including his discovery of chemistry at Lenoir-Rhyne College, where he received a bachelor's degree in mathematics, biology, and chemistry, and his graduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Little received an M.S. in physical chemistry and Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Little recalls his lengthy career at a few institutions: North Carolina, where Little began as a professor and later, as chairman of the chemistry department, revised the curriculum and got a new laboratory built; the Research Triangle Foundation, where Little helped establish the Research Triangle Park. Additionally little recalls his various administrative responsibilities and assesses his career in North Carolina.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 47 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.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0351

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • November 11, 1929
  • Hickory, North Carolina, United States
  • February 27, 2009
  • Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1950 Lenoir-Rhyne College (Hickory, N.C.) BS Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics
1952 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill MS Physical Chemistry
1954 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Reed College (Portland, Or.)

  • 1955 to 1956 Instructor

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • 1956 to 1957 Instructor
  • 1957 to 1961 Assistant Professor
  • 1959 to 1961 Associate Dean, Graduate School for Research Administration
  • 1961 to 1965 Associate Professor
  • 1965 to 1970 Chairman, Department of Chemistry
  • 1965 to 1977 Professor
  • 1972 to 1973 Chairman, Division of the Natural Sciences
  • 1973 to 1978 Vice Chancellor, Development and Public Service
  • 1975 Initial Registered Agent, The Arts and Sciences Foundation
  • 1975 to 1979 Vice President, The Arts and Sciences Foundation
  • 1977 to 1996 University Distinguished Professor
  • 1983 Acting Executive Director, The Arts and Sciences Foundation
  • 1991 to 1992 Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs
  • 1992 to 1996 Senior Vice President and Vice President, Academic Affairs

The Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina

  • 1957 to 1958 Associate Director, Chemistry
  • 1987 to 2002 Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board
  • 1990 to 2008 Corporate Secretary

Research Triangle Institute

  • 1968 to 1977 Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board
  • 1998 to 2003 Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board

Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies, Inc.

  • 1975 to 1982 Vice President
  • 1982 to 1987 President

John Motley Morehead Foundation

  • 1978 to 1989 Chairman, Central Selection Committee


Year(s) Award
1951 to 1954 Morehead Scholarship, University of North Carolina
1970 Outstanding Alumnus Award, Lenoir-Rhyne College
1980 Thomas Jefferson Award, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1984 Doctor of Science Honorary Degree, Lenoir-Rhyne College
1987 Order of the Golden Fleece (honorary), The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1988 Marcus E. Hobbs Distinguished Service Award, American Chemical Society, North Carolina Section
1990 Sam Ragan Award for Contributions to the Arts in North Carolina
1991 Faculty Service Award, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Alumni Association
1996 Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina
2003 Medicinal Chemistry Building at Research Triangle Institute named W. F. Little Laboratories
2003 Last road in Research Triangle Park named Little Drive

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PDF — 249 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.

Audio File Web-quality download

1 Interview Segment Archival-quality download