Oral history interview with Peter B. Lederman

Oral history interview with Peter B. Lederman

  • 2011-Sep-01 (First session)
  • 2011-Sep-19 (Second session)

Peter B. Lederman was born in Weimar, Germany. When Peter was seven the family left for the United States, spending about six months in England on the way finally settling in New York City. When he entered the University of Michigan he chose as his major cehmical engineering. Despite a rigorous curriculum with few electives, Lederman found time to teach a qualitative analysis lab during his last two years at Michigan, and during his summers he worked on corrosion studies at BOMARC missile project. He was drafted into the Army Petroleum School, where he taught petroleum technology. His prelim for a PhD, on the liquefaction of natural gas, gave him a presentation that then became a publication. His PhD thesis involved using zeolites to separate gases at very low temperatures.

Next Lederman began work on a pilot unit in ethylene-propylene copolymers for Esso Research Laboratories, later moving to Esso's New Jersey laboratories as a process engineer. About to be promoted, he decided to accept an associate professorship at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (Poly). While teaching there he worked on a solid waste management program for the garbage committee of New Providence, New Jersey. This interest eventually branched into a general fascination with environmental issues; while at Poly he obtained a National Science Foundation grant to help disadvantaged students study pollution. Believing that America should have a strong technological foundation, Lederman also became more active in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Lederman left Poly for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he attempted to combine fragmented areas of pollution. He worked as the director of the Industrial Waste Treatment Research Laboratory until it was moved to Ohio, at which time Lederman spent a year as head of the program in Washington, D.C., before returning to New Jersey. Lederman spent his next four years at Research-Cottrell, developing electrostatic precipitators, negotiating contracts in Japan, and managing crises. Unfortunately, power companies were finding permitting too onerous and were not expanding. Superfund had just been established by statute, and hazardous materials had become a hot issue, so Lederman went to Roy F. Weston, Inc., to consult on hazardous materials. There he was responsible for government contracts, especially technical assistance for emergency response consulting, and strategic policy regarding hazardous materials. Wanting to finish his career in academia, Lederman went to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in the Center for Environmental Engineering and Sciences, in the Office of Intellectual Property, and as Research Professor of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Policy. He also continued to consult pro bono for the National Research Council. His hazardous materials experience, process engineering, and environmental knowledge in general provided expertise for nuclear and chemical weapons disposal work. After eight years Lederman retired, but he is still on the Science Advisory Board of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. He is still active in AIChE, where he has chaired and served on a number of committees including the Government Relations Committee, working to bring technology into political discussions, and he maintains his own consulting firm.

Place of interview
Original file type PDF, FLAC
  • 115 pages
Rights In Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Permitted
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

Physical location


Cite as

Lederman, Peter B. (Peter Bernd), interviewed by David J. Caruso in Chemical Heritage Foundation on September 1, 2011. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0690. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/df65nvs.

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Transcript (Published Version)

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

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads