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Oral history interview with George B. Rathmann

  • 1999-Sep-16 (First session)
  • 1999-Sep-17 (Second session)

Oral history interview with George B. Rathmann

  • 1999-Sep-16 (First session)
  • 1999-Sep-17 (Second session)

George Rathmann discusses his upbringing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his undergraduate work in physical chemistry at Northwestern University, and later his graduate studies in physical chemistry at Princeton University. Rathmann has a successful industrious career, from working as a research chemist at 3M Company to acting as Vice-President of Research and Development at Abbott Laboratories, where he became greatly interested in recombinant DNA. Later in his career, Rathmann became more involved in the world of biotechnology and biotech companies.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 107 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

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

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.

Leo Slater was the 2001–2002 John C. Haas Fellow and a senior research historian at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, where he also served as Director of Historical Services from 1997 to 2000. A former research chemist at the Schering-Plough Research Institute, he received his doctorate in History from Princeton University in 1997.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0187

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 25, 1927
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • April 22, 2012
  • Palo Alto, California, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1948 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) BS Physical Chemistry
1952 Princeton University PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

3M Company

  • 1951 to 1955 Research Chemist
  • 1955 to 1958 Research Manager
  • 1958 to 1965 Research Director
  • 1965 to 1969 Group Technical Director
  • 1969 to 1972 Manager X-Ray Systems

Litton Medical Systems, Inc.

  • 1972 to 1975 President

Abbott Laboratories

  • 1975 to 1980 Vice President, Research and Development, Diagnostics Division

Amgen, Inc.

  • 1980 to 1988 Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
  • 1988 to 1990 Chairman
  • 1990 to 2000 Chairman Emeritus

ICOS Corporation

  • 1990 to 2000 Chairman
  • 1991 to 2000 Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
  • 2000 Chairman Emeritus

Hyseq, Inc.

  • 2000 Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer


Year(s) Award
1987 Gold Medallist Biotechnology CEO of the Year
1988 Gift of Life Award, Illinois Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation
1988 Annual Recognition Award, Washington, DC, National Kidney Foundation
1988 Annual Recognition Award, Los Angeles, National Kidney Foundation
1988 Gold Medallist Biotechnology CEO of the Year
1990 Entrepreneur of the Year, Los Angeles area
1992 BioPharm Achievement Award
1995 Glenn T. Seaborg Medal, UCLA
1997 California Lutheran Honorary Doctorate
1997 Bower Award for Business Leadership
1999 Biotechnology Heritage Award, Chemical Heritage Foundation and BIO

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PDF — 731 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

9 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads