Oral history interview with Philip E. Eaton

  • 1997-Jan-22

Philip Eaton begins the interview with a description of his childhood, parents, and early education in Brooklyn, New York. At age seven, Eaton and his family relocated to Budd Lake, New Jersey, where he attended Roxbury Grammar School and later Roxbury High School. Eaton displayed a great interest in science during his high-school years, and his parents’ and teachers’ encouragement strengthened his desire to major in chemistry. He attended Princeton University, receiving his BA in 1957. After graduating from Princeton, Eaton attended Harvard University for both his MA and PhD degrees. While at Princeton and Harvard, Eaton worked during the summers at Allied Chemical, where his group leader, Everett Gilbert, had a profound effect on his career. There, he first became involved with cage chemistry, specifically Kepone. In his final years as a graduate student at Harvard, Eaton accepted a postdoctoral assistant professorship at the University of California, Berkeley. There he taught introductory organic chemistry with Melvin Calvin. In 1962, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, where he remains a professor today. Shortly after his arrival at Chicago, Eaton began researching chlorocarbon compounds, which led him to cubane synthesis. With the assistance of his postdocs, Eaton synthesized on several other cubane-based compounds. Other projects included photochemistry work and dodecahedrane synthesis. Eaton’s students praised his teaching methods and his dedication to excellence in education. His research accomplishments have earned him several awards, including the Humboldt Award and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. Eaton concludes the interview with a discussion on the future or scientific research, maintaining excellence in chemistry education and research, and thoughts on his wife, Phyllis.

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