Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Walter H. Stockmayer

  • 1986-Aug-25 (First session)
  • 1992-Jan-22 (Second session)

Oral history interview with Walter H. Stockmayer

  • 1986-Aug-25 (First session)
  • 1992-Jan-22 (Second session)

In the first interview, Walter Stockmayer describes early influences directing him towards the chemical sciences. Stockmayer first became interested in the mathematical aspects of physical chemistry as an undergraduate at MIT. A Rhodes Scholarship brought Stockmayer to Oxford, where he undertook gas kinetics research with D. L. Chapman. Stockmayer returned to MIT for Ph.D. research and pursued his study of statistical mechanics, which he later continued at Columbia. He returned again to MIT in 1943 as an assistant professor of chemistry and became involved in the theory of network formation and the gelation criterion. Stockmayer increasingly directed his attention to theories of polymer solutions, light scattering and chain dynamics.

The second interview begins with Stockmayer's Guggenheim Fellowship in Strasbourg, France, his first meeting with Hermann Staudinger in Freiburg, Germany, and his subsequent return to MIT. Stockmayer then moved to Dartmouth University in 1961, where he worked primarily on copolymers in dilute solution, established the journal Macromolecules, and collaborated with numerous Japanese scientists. He discusses his impression of the Gordon Conferences and the polymer community since the 1940s. Stockmayer concludes with his retirement and work as a consultant for Du Pont and other companies.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 99 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

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an AB in history from Princeton University and a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Peter J. T. Morris is currently at the Department of the History of Science and Technology of the Open University, where he is Royal Society-British Academy Research Fellow. Morris was educated at Oxford University receiving his BA, chemistry in 1978; DPhil, modern history in 1983, and he was a research fellow at the Open University from 1982 to 1984. During the period 1985–1987, Peter Morris was Assistant Director for Special Projects at the Beckman Center. He was the Royal Society–British Academy Research Fellow at the Open University, Milton Keynes, between 1987 and 1991, and Edelstein International Fellow in 1991–92. He is author of the monographs, Archives of the British Chemical Industry, 1800–1914 and Polymer Pioneers; his volume The American Synthetic Rubber Research Program was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in December 1989. Morris also co-edited Milestones in 150 Years of the Chemical Industry in 1991 and The Development of Plastics in 1994.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0049

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • April 07, 1914
  • Rutherford, New Jersey, United States
  • May 09, 2004
  • Norwich, Vermont, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1935 Massachusetts Institute of Technology SB
1937 University of Oxford BSc
1940 Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD

Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • 1937 to 1938 Teaching Fellow in Chemistry
  • 1938 to 1941 Instructor and Research Fellow
  • 1943 to 1946 Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • 1946 to 1952 Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry
  • 1952 to 1961 Professor of Physical Chemistry

Columbia University

  • 1941 to 1943 Instructor

Dartmouth College

  • 1961 to 1962 Professor of Chemistry
  • 1962 to 1967 Class of 1952 Professor
  • 1963 to 1967 Chairman, Chemistry Department
  • 1967 to 1979 Albert W. Smith Professor
  • 1973 to 1976 Chairman, Chemistry Department
  • 1979 to 1994 Professor Emeritus


Year(s) Award
1935 to 1937 Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University
1946 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1954 to 1955 Guggenheim Fellowship
1955 Stas Medal, Société Chimique de Belgique
1956 National Academy of Sciences
1958 Bourke Lecturer, Faraday Society
1960 College Chemistry Teacher Award, Manufacturing Chemists Association
1966 Polymer Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
1972 Honorary Doctorate, Université‚Äö Louis-Pasteur, Strasbourg, France
1974 Debye Award in Physical Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1975 High Polymer Physics Prize, American Physical Society
1976 Honorary Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford
1977 Honor Scroll, Massachusetts Institute of Chemists
1978 Humboldt Preis, Humboldt Foundation, West Germany
1982 Distinguished Lecturer Award, Polymer Science Department, University of Massachusetts
1983 Honorary LHD, Dartmouth College
1987 Service Award, Division of Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1987 National Medal of Science
1988 Richards Medal, Northeastern Section, American Chemical Society
1988 Polymer Chemistry Division Award, American Chemical Society

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PDF — 649 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

11 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads