Oral history interview with Donald L. Katz

Oral history interview with Donald L. Katz

  • 1986-Aug-22

Donald Katz starts the interview by briefly referring to his current projects but then describes his family background and his genealogical interests, stimulated by his 1952 trip to his father's birthplace in a German village. Katz entered the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and majored in chemical engineering. As he continued into graduate studies, Donald Katz acted as George Brown's assistant, helping other graduate students and junior faculty, and with patent cases. When Katz started his research career at Phillips Petroleum he was assigned to reservoir studies. An invitation by Brown brought Katz back to the University of Michigan. The war years altered some of his teaching and research responsibilities and led him, for instance, into heat transfer investigations. On Brown's promotion to Dean, Katz took over as departmental chairman for several years. Katz describes his involvement in the introduction of computer education into the chemical engineering curriculum, both at Ann Arbor and nationally. Other recollections follow: safety and the hazards of bulk chemicals; pipelines; the underground storage of gas and air; the origins of the Handbook of Natural Gas Engineering. Katz concludes his interview with some thoughts on the changes in the academic chemical engineering profession over his long career.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 68 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.

Physical location

Oral history number 0052

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • August 01, 1907
  • Jackson County, Michigan, United States
  • May 29, 1989
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1931 University of Michigan BSE Chemical Engineering
1932 University of Michigan MS Chemical Engineering
1933 University of Michigan PhD Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Phillips Petroleum Company

  • 1933 to 1936 Research Engineer

University of Michigan

  • 1936 to 1942 Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • 1942 to 1943 Associate Professor
  • 1943 to 1964 Professor
  • 1951 to 1962 Chairman, Chemical Engineering Department
  • 1964 to 1977 A. H. White University Professor
  • 1977 to 1989 Emeritus Professor


Year(s) Award
1950 Hanlon Award, Gas Processors Association
1959 President, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1959 Michigan Engineer of the Year, Society of Petroleum Engineers
1962 Distingushed Lecturer, Society of Petroleum Engineers
1963 Visiting Professor, National School of Chemistry, Rio de Janeiro
1964 John Franklin Carll Award, Society of Petroleum Engineers
1964 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, University of Michigan
1964 Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1967 Warren K. Lewis Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1968 Member, National Academy of Engineering
1968 William H. Walker Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1969 Honorary Member, Phi Lambda Upsilon
1970 Mineral Industries Award, American Institute of Mining Engineers
1972 Distinguished Public Service Award, U. S. Coast Guard
1975 Murphree Award, American Chemical Society
1977 Gas Industry Research Award, American Gas Association
1978 Lucas Gold Medal, American Institute of Mining Engineers
1979 Award of Merit, Michigan Historical Society
1983 Selected as an Eminent Chemical Engineer, 75th Anniversary of American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1983 National Medal of Science
1984 Designated Distinguished Member, Society of Petroleum Engineers
1986 Honorary Member, American Institute of Mining Engineer

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PDF — 337 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

9 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads