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Photograph of Herbert S. Eleuterio

Oral history interview with Herbert Eleuterio

  • 2000-Feb-25

Oral history interview with Herbert Eleuterio

  • 2000-Feb-25

Herbert Eleuterio was born in 1927 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His parents had emigrated from the Azores, and he spoke no English until he began first grade. His interest in science was sparked by a middle-school biology teacher, and he decided to pursue chemistry after a customer on his paper route gave him a book on organic chemistry. He attended Tufts University, where he was positively influenced by his calculus teacher. He nearly went to graduate school for math, but the dim employment prospects for mathematicians led him to choose chemistry instead. Eleuterio received his PhD from Michigan State, and married shortly after. He spent a year as a post-doc at Ohio State, then took a job at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. He was assigned polymer work even though he had no formal polymer background, and he was immediately very successful. His work there included propylene polymerization, olefin catalysis, olefin metathesis, and fluoro polymers, especially high-performance lubricants such as hexafluoropropylene oxide [HFPO]. Eleuterio also became interested in the theory and practice of knowledge creation and knowledge management through his work in exploratory chemistry at DuPont. He spent much of his later career discussing his concept of “degrees of freedom” and its relationship to scientific creativity. He was also a major proponent of creative teamwork in the laboratory. During his tenure with the Atomic Energy Division, which functioned mostly in South Carolina, he helped to create the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina in Aiken. Eleuterio’s final project at DuPont was globalizing corporate R&D. After his retirement from DuPont in 1992, he began teaching part of every year at the National University of Singapore in the engineering and business programs. He also started the Process Analysis and Optimization Enterprise, which evolved into the Center for Process Engineering, in order to build links between industry and academia in Singapore. Eleuterio concludes the interview with a discussion of his family.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 43 pages
  • 3 h 5 m
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 G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0192

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Interviewee biographical information

  • November 23, 1927
  • New Bedford, Massachusetts, United States
  • July 17, 2022
  • Wilmington, Delaware, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1949 Tufts University BS Chemistry
1953 Michigan State University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

  • 1954 to 1959 Research Chemistry, Polychemicals Department
  • 1959 to 1963 Research Manager, Industrial and Biochemicals Department
  • 1963 to 1968 Division Head, Experimental Station, Explosives Department
  • 1972 to 1973 Director, Experimental Station, Explosives Department
  • 1973 to 1976 Assistant Research Director, Polymer Intermediates
  • 1976 to 1977 Production Manager, Nylon Intermediates, Petrochemicals Department
  • 1977 to 1985 Director, Research and Development Division, Petrochemicals Department
  • 1985 to 1989 Technical Director, Atomic Energy Division, Petrochemicals Department
  • 1989 to 1992 Director, New Technology Studies

National University of Singapore

  • 1993 to 2001 Visiting Professor


Year(s) Award
1987 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1991 Technical Excellence Award, DuPont Fellows Pederson Award
1995 Carothers Award, American Chemical Society
1995 Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement
1995 Singapore's NSTB Medal

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PDF — 552 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

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads