Hubert Alyea was an internationally known popularizer of chemistry. His public demonstrations and academic lectures won him numerous awards and imparted the beauty of chemistry to his students and interested laypeople alike. Alyea contracted polio in 1923, during his senior year at Princeton University. His interview covers his diagnosis and treatment and mentions the effects of post-polio syndrome in his later years.
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.
1926 to 1927American-Scandinavian Fellowship, Nobel Institute, Stockholm
1927 to 1928Proctor Fellow
1930 to 1934Instructor in Chemistry
1934 to 1940Assistant Professor
1940 to 1954Associate Professor
1954 to 1972Professor
1972 to 1992Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota
1928 to 1929National Research Felow
Kaiser Wilhelm-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften
1929 to 1930International Research Fellow
1949 to 1950
Visiting Professor, University of Hawaii
New Jersey Science Teachers Award
New Jersey Education Citation
Lecturer, International Exposition, Brussels
Lecturer, International Exposition, Seattle
Chemical Manufacturers Association Award
Lecturer, International Exposition, Montreal
Award in Chemical Education, American Chemical Society
Honorary D. Sc. , Beaver College
James Flack Norris Award, Northeast Section, American Chemical Society
Priestley Award, Dickinson College
Robert H. Carleton Award, National Science Teachers Association
Alyea, Hubert N. (Hubert Newcombe), interviewed by Ronald E. Doel and Sturchio, Jeffrey L. (Jeffrey Louis) in Princeton, New Jersey on May 30, 1986. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0010. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/cf95jc49c.
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ALYEA: Over there is a book--I made this "Eminent Chemists" series, you may have seen it.
KeywordsAmerican Chemical Society (ACS)Chemical warfareDulles, AllenEminent Chemists seriesGas schoolGoering, Hermann WilhelmMerck & CompanyNew JerseyNuremburg trialsPoison gas detectorsPrinceton, New JerseySabotageSecond World War (WWII)Sharp & DohmeUnited States ArmyWorld War II (WWII)
STURCHIO: I thought we could start--we'd like to ask you a little bit about what got you interested in science first...
KeywordsAlyea, EdwinAlyea, EthanAsbestosBaskerville, CharlesBrothersCarbonClifton, New JerseyCurtman, Louis J.Duke UniversityFathersHome chemistry labJohns Hopkins UniversityMutual Life Insurance CompanyPrinceton UniversityQualitative analysisSmyth, Charles P.Sodium nitrateSulfurSunday school
KeywordsAlyea, EdwinAlyea, EthanAmsterdam, The NetherlandsAntioch CollegeBack BayBoston, MassachusettsClifton, New JerseyFamily historyFathersFootballHandballHawaiiJohns Hopkins UniversityLovett, RobertMann, HoraceMothersPolioPrinceton Theological SeminaryRoosevelt, Franklin D.SwimmingTaylor, Hugh S.
STURCHIO: I wonder if we could go back to ask you some questions about the professors you had during your years at Princeton as an undergraduate.
KeywordsAnalytical chemistryCatalysisElectrochemistryFurman, N. HowellHulett, GeorgeInorganic chemistryJones, W. LauderMajor, RandolphMcCay, LeRoyMenzies, AlanPhysical chemistryTaylor, Hugh S.Turkevich, JohnWallis, Everett
ALYEA: [McCay] studied with Bunsen--Robert Bunsen--in Heidelburg,and everybody knew it.
KeywordsAnalytical chemistryBerylliumBunsen, RobertButterFreiburg School of MinesGalliumGluciniumMargarineMcCay, LeRoyMineralogyWinkler, Clemens A.
STURCHIO: How about--before we get to Taylor, who we want to talk about a good deal, there were also...
KeywordsAlkaloidsBeatty, HaroldBerlin, GermanyCatalysisDougherty, GreggFirst World War (WWI)Frick Chemistry LaboratoryFrick, Henry ClayGrand CanyonHibben, John G.Jones, W. LauderNatural productsPacsu, EugeneSugar chemistryTaylor, Hugh S.Wallis, Everett
ALYEA: Now that takes care of until we get to Sweden.
KeywordsArrhenius, SvanteBackström, Hans L.J.Haber, FritzMercaptanNobel Institute for Physical ResearchNobel laureatesNobel PrizeNorthern lightsPauling, LinusProhibitionStockholm, Sweden
ALYEA: Now the second one was Fritz Haber.
KeywordsAmmonium nitrateApatiteArrhenius, SvanteBelgiumBerlin, GermanyBlack Fridaybromine lachrymatorsChemical warfareChiang Kai-Shekchlorine gasCyanideExplosivesEyring, HenryFarkas, AdalbertFarkas, LasoslasFirst World War (WWI)Franck, JamesFreundlick, Herbertgas warfareHaber, FritzHaber-Bosch processHalifax explosionHarteck, PaulHitler, AdolfKaiser Wilhelm InstituteKistler, Samuel S.Korean WarLadenburg, KurtLind, Samuel C.MacDougel, HenryNernst's third lawNernst, WaltherNorth KoreaOppau, GermanyPhosphorusPolanyi, MichaelSecond World WarSmith, Lee I.South KoreaStock market crashSuicideTaiwanTaylor, Hugh S.tear gasTexas City explosionUniversity of MinnesotaWigner, EugeneWorld War I (WWI)World War IIYpres, Frances
ALYEA: Well, this is an entirely different story.
KeywordsBodenstein, MaxBohr, NielsChessCurie, MarieDirac, PaulEinstein, AlbertHoyle, FredKaiser Wilhelm InstituteMathematicsMax Planck InstituteMeredith, BurgessMusicNobel laureatesPlanck's constantPlanck, MaxPrinceton UniversityRobertson, Howard P.Science communicationTaylor, Hugh S.Unified field theoryVon Neumann, JohnWheeler, JohnWigner, Eugene
ALYEA: Now, the second meeting in '48 was even more famous; this was the conception of the computer.
KeywordsBlack PlagueDiodesDirac, PaulENIACForrestal CenterLos Alamos National LaboratoryManhattan ProjectMANIACMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)Mechanical computersNobel PrizePrinceton UniversityRobertson, Howard P.UNIVACUniversity of PennsylvaniaVon Neumann, John
STURCHIO: Well, we should get on to your lecturing career.
STURCHIO: Your comment earlier about how your future in-laws wondered why you were going into teaching when a lot of people were going into industry was interesting, especially since I noticed that your fellow PhD's in 1928 all had industrial careers or government careers.
DOEL: Edward Condon was out there for one year during that time.
KeywordsGurney, Ronald WilfredQuantum mechanics
ALYEA: Now there's another story connected with Sputnik in the same plane where there was [Pyotr] Kapitza.
KeywordsChain reactionsGurney, Ronald WilfredKapitsa, Pyotr LeonidovichKhrushchev, Nikita S.National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)Nobel PrizePetroleumSemyonov, Nikolay N.SputnikTurkevich, John
STURCHIO: Was it after you were at Minnesota that you got married? It was 1929.
KeywordsAlyea, EvelynCoeducationPrinceton University
ALYEA: LIFE came down and took pictures—
STURCHIO: You said that by, I guess by the mid 30s, you were spending more and more time on teaching—
KeywordsAtom bombAtomic energyAtomic Energy Commission (AEC)BelgiumBethe, Hans A.Camden, New JerseyCondon, EdwardConsultingDepartment of State (US)Fulbright scholarsHawaiiLaboratory accidentsNew Haven, ConnecticutNew JerseyPearl Harbor, HawaiiPrinceton UniversityPrinceton, New JerseyRochester, New YorkSecond World War (WWII)Smyth, Charles P.TeachingUNESCOWigner, EugeneWorld War II (WWII)World's fairs
STURCHIO: Well why not tell us about Wendell Wilkie—
KeywordsAlbion, Robert G.Luce, Clare BootheMoses, RobertNuclear power plantsPrinceton UniversityWilk, EdithWillkie, Philip H.Willkie, WendellWillkie, Wendell L.
STURCHIO: Well, you wanted to tell us about Wood—
KeywordsAmerican Chemical Society (ACS)Bonhoeffer, Karl F.DeuteriumEniwetok Atoll, Marshall IslandsGlassblowingHarteck, PaulHeavy hydrogenHydrogenHydrogen bombLangmuir, IrvingMinneapolis, MinnesotaNobel PrizeUrey, Harold C.Wood, Robert Williams
ALYEA: Now at that meeting was Bodenstein from the University of Berlin.
KeywordsArrhenius, SvanteAvogadro's lawBodenstein, MaxDebye, Peter J. W.Eyring, HenryHaber, FritzHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinNernst's third lawNernst, WaltherTaylor, Hugh S.
KeywordsAlyea, FredAtomic energyEinstein, AlbertEisenhart, Luther P.Haber, FritzInstitute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.)Kaiser Wilhelm InstitutePrinceton UniversityRahm, Barbara L.Scientific apparatus and instruments
ALYEA: When Eyring came and worked with Taylor a great deal in 32-33—
KeywordsAmerican Chemical Society (ACS)Brooklyn Polytechnic InstituteCavendish, HenryColumbia UniversityEyring, HenryFaraday SocietyHaber, FritzKaiser Wilhelm InstitutePolanyi, MichaelPrinceton UniversityQuantum mechanicsTaylor, Hugh S.University of HawaiiUrey, HaroldWigner, Eugene
STURCHIO: Kistiakowsky was at Princeton for a couple of years then too—
KeywordsBodenstein, MaxDutton, FredEisenhower, Dwight D.GlassblowingHarvard UniversityIhrig, JuddJournal of chemical educationKistiakowsky, George B.Kistiakowsky, VeraMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)Mead, BrianMoebius, HildegardNobel Institute for Physical ResearchPrinceton UniversitySecond World War (WWII)University of HawaiiWorld War II (WWII)
ALYEA: Well, now we come to the tested overhead projection part of it—
KeywordsAmerican Revolution (1775-1783)Atomic energyBattle of Princeton (New Jersey: 1777)BelgiumCentury 21 ExpositionDavy, Humphry, SirExposition universelle et internationaleFaraday, MichaelHenry, JosephIndiaJoseph Henry house (Princeton, N.J.)Journal of chemical educationKistiakowsky, George B.Maclean House (Princeton, N.J.)Maclean, JohnMorse, Samuel F. B.Nassau Hall (Princeton, N.J.)ProjectorsRush, BenjaminSilliman, BenjaminTelegraphUniversity of EdinburghWorld's fairs
STURCHIO: One thing you started to tell us about last week was the work you did for the state of New Jersey with gas defense in World War Two—
KeywordsCivil defenseEngineering, Science, and Management War TrainingNew JerseyNewark, New JerseyPrinceton UniversitySecond World War (WWII)World War II (WWII)
STURCHIO: The only other thing that I wanted to ask you about or that I had in addition to anything else you'd like to tell us is—
KeywordsAcropolis, Athens, GreeceAmerican Philosophical SocietyAncient coinsArchaeological chemistryCaley, Earle R.ConsultingDougherty, GreggElectrochemical SocietyEyring, HenryFink, ColinFink, Colin E.Furman, N. HowellJones, W. LauderLIFE magazineOrganic chemistryPacsu, EugenePease, RobertPhysical chemistryPrinceton UniversitySmyth, Charles P.Taylor, Hugh S.Turkevich, JohnWallis, Everett
ALYEA: How Princeton changed from 1920-1970
KeywordsAlyea, EvelynCoeducationGreat DepressionPostwar generationPrinceton UniversityReserve Officers' Training CorpsROTCSecond World War (WWII)World War II (WWII)
ALYEA: I didn't tell you about the absent-minded professor.
KeywordsAlyea, EvelynAlyea, FredBelgiumCalifornia Institute of Technology (Cal Tech)Carroll College (Waukesha, Wis.)Disney, WaltDisneylandExposition universelle et internationaleHaver, JuneHollywood, CaliforniaHuntington Hotel (Pasadena, Calif.)MacMurray, FredPrinceton UniversityRheingold BeerWalt Disney Productions
ALYEA: Chemistry in the Far East.
KeywordsBangkok, ThailandCampbell, J. ArthurChem. Bond ApproachChemical Education Material Study (Chem Study)Chulalongkorn UniversityCommunist countriesČhulālongkō̜nmahāwitthayālaiEast AsiaFar EastHigh school teachersIron Curtain landsMayberry, RichardMoscow, RussiaNuffield StudyStrong, LeonardUNESCO
ALYEA: And I played the cello.
KeywordsAnheuser-Busch breweryBanjo ClubCelloFerrer, JoséLogan, JoshuaMcCarter Theater (Princeton, N.J.)Music performancePabst, AugiePrinceton alumniSmith, WallyStewart, JamesStewart, JimmyTriangle ClubWhite Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
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.