Oral history interview with Gilbert J. Stork

Oral history interview with Gilbert J. Stork

  • 1991-Aug-06
Photograph of Gilbert Stork
Gilbert Stork, Courtesy of John D. Roberts, Science History Institute Collections

Gilbert Stork begins his interview with a description of his childhood and family background in Paris. Stork and his family moved to the United States in 1939, and he decided to begin his graduate studies in chemistry at the University of Florida in 1940. There, Stork earned his B.S. in 1942, and in 1945, he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. While earning his Ph.D. at Wisconsin, he taught a section of the Army Special Training Program. Synthesis related to quinine and stereochemical control in synthesis highlighted Stork's graduate work and early career.

His first employment after receiving his Ph.D. was with Lakeside Laboratories, working on estrone synthesis. There, Stork also began work on hydrogenation techniques. Stork left Lakeside in 1946 and began an instructorship at Harvard University. While at Harvard, he also consulted for the Syntex Corporation. In 1953, Stork left Harvard and joined the faculty of Columbia University as an associate professor, where he continued his organic synthesis research. Next, Stork worked on polyene cyclization and enamine alkylation while continuing his synthesis work. Stork concludes the interview with a discussion of various developments in organic chemistry, the future of university research funding, and memorable students and co-workers.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 108 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

About the Interviewers

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.

Leonard Fine is professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate studies in chemistry at Columbia University. His special interests include polymer chemistry and materials science, industrial inorganic and organic chemistry, engineering plastics, problems in solid waste management and the recovery and recycling of post-consumer plastics. Among his recent publications are two practical manuals on principles and practices of infrared spectroscopy and a general chemistry textbook for engineers and scientists. He holds a BS in chemistry from Marietta College and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Physical location

Oral history number 0100

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 31, 1921
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • October 21, 2017
  • New York, New York, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1942 University of Florida BS Chemistry
1945 University of Wisconsin--Madison PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Lakeside Laboratories

  • 1945 to 1946 Senior Research Chemist

Harvard University

  • 1946 to 1948 Instructor
  • 1948 to 1953 Assistant Professor

Columbia University

  • 1953 to 1955 Associate Professor
  • 1955 to 1967 Professor
  • 1967 to 1997 Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry


Year(s) Award
1957 Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1959 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow
1961 DSc (honorary), Lawrence University
1961 Baekeland Medal, North Jersey Section, American Chemical Society
1962 Harrison Howe Award
1966 Edward Curtis Franklin Memorial Award, Stanford University
1967 Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1971 Gold Medal, Synthetic Organic Chemical Manuufacturers Association
1973 Nebraska Award
1978 Roussel Prize, Paris
1979 DSc (honorary), Université Pierre et Marie Curie
1980 Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society
1982 Edgar Fahs Smith Award, Philadelphia Section, American Chemical Society
1982 Willard Gibbs Medal, Chicago Section, American Chemical Society
1982 Award in Chemical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
1982 DSc (honorary), University of Rochester
1983 National Medal of Science
1983 Pauling Award
1985 Tetrahedron Prize
1986 Remsen Award, Maryland Section, American Chemical Society
1986 Cliff S. Hamilton Award, Nebraska
1987 Monie A. Ferst Award and Medal, Georgia Tech
1988 DSc (honorary), Emory University
1991 Roger Adams Award
1992 George Kenner Award, Liverpool
1992 Robert Robinson Lectureship Award, UK
1992 DSc (honorary), Columbia University
1993 Robert A. Welch Award
1996 Wolf Prize, Israel
1997 DSc (honorary), University of Wisconsin

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PDF — 698 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

11 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads