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Oral history interview with Leo Mandelkern

  • 1986-Apr-28

Oral history interview with Leo Mandelkern

  • 1986-Apr-28

In this interview Professor Leo Mandelkern begins with his early years in New York City and his undergraduate education at Cornell University. This is followed by his service as a meteorologist during World War II. In the central portion of the interview, Mandelkern describes his graduate education at Cornell, including his association with J. G. Kirkwood, Franklin Long, and Paul Flory. Particular emphasis is given to his postdoctoral work with Flory and collaborative work with Harold Scheraga. The details of Mandelkern's career at the National Bureau of Standards include Bureau operations and management in the 1950s. The interview continues with more recent work at Florida State, including students and post-docs. It concludes with comments on methods of solving scientific controversies, especially as it relates to his role in the problem of the folded chain.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 43 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 0029

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • February 23, 1922
  • New York City, New York, United States
  • May 31, 2006
  • Tallahassee, Florida, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1942 Cornell University AB Chemistry
1949 Cornell University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Cornell University

  • 1949 to 1952 Research Associate

United States. National Bureau of Standards

  • 1952 to 1962 Physical Chemist

Florida State University

  • 1962 to 1987 Professor of Chemistry
  • 1970 to 1974 Associate Director, Institute of Molecular Biophysics


Year(s) Award
1957 Medal Award for Meritorious Service, United States Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards
1958 Arthur S. Fleming Award, Washington DC Junior Chamber of Commerce
1975 Witco Award in Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1984 Florida Award, American Chemical Society, Lakeland, Florida
1984 Mettler Award, North American Thermal Analysis Society

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PDF — 268 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

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads