Oral history interview with Constantine E. Anagnostopoulos

Oral history interview with Constantine E. Anagnostopoulos

  • 2012-Aug-06

Constantine E. Anagnostopoulos was born in Turkey in 1922 to parents of Greek descent. Due to Turkish expulsion of the Greeks when he was three months old, the family left for the Greek mainland. Because his father was in the Greek diplomatic service, the family moved to British East Africa (now Tanzania) for seven years. Anagnostopoulos returned to mainland Greece for high school, attending Athens College. When World War II began during his senior year, he volunteered to join the Greek Army. Because he spoke English, he was attached to British forces. Later in life, Anagnostopoulos wrote a book about his experiences during the war called Athens in Black: A Story of Life in Nazi-Occupied Greece (2011). Although he had planned to study in South Africa and England for undergraduate and graduate education, he was offered a full scholarship to attend Brown University in the United States, which he accepted. He had been interested in chemistry since high school, so he selected that as his major. He excelled, earning highest honors in chemistry. Anagnostopoulos then attended Harvard University for his Ph.D. in organic chemistry, working for Louis Fieser (1899-1977) and finishing in three years. One summer during his Ph.D. program, he worked at Monsanto and was offered a full-time position at the company upon graduating. Although he considered academia, he decided to accept Monsanto’s offer because he found the project he worked on, which was figuring out how to make methionine in chicken feed cheaper, interesting.

Anagnostopoulos moved up in the ranks at Monsanto, eventually overseeing the new enterprise division. Because Monsanto was interested in getting into new industries and new businesses, he started the first corporate venture capital group, InnoVen, in 1972 to “look to the outside.” Monsanto started to pursue new ventures, including biotechnology after some staff members attended a biotechnology conference at Asilomar and came back saying that biotechnology was going to revolutionize a number of industries. Monsanto also decided to get out of the petrochemicals industry and pursue biotechnology instead. They hired an outside man, John W. Hanley (1922-2018), as the new CEO around that time. Anagnostopoulos discusses the origin and development of Roundup weed killer, Monsanto’s decision to avoid putting bioengineered products on people’s tables due to concern about public displeasure, and the company's restructuring in the 1980s. Anagnostopoulos talks about the acquisition of Searle, marketing Celebrex, and Richard Mahoney’s (1934-) development of Astroturf. Anagnostopoulos concludes by discussing his involvement with other pursuits like Advent International and Gateway Venture Partners, mentioning his professional relationships with Peter S. P. Brooke (1929-2020), David J. S. Cooksey (1940-), and Moshe H. Alafi. He talks about his service on the board of Deltagen, his work with Curios, which wanted to use chemotherapeutic products in a targeted way, moving to Detroit, Michigan, in 2007, and his decision to only serve on Genzyme’s board after it went public.

This interview was conducted remotely via phone.

Property Value
  • 39 pages
  • 2 h 9 m 26 s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Mark Jones holds a PhD in history, philosophy, and social studies of science from the University of California, San Diego. He is the former director of research at the Life Sciences Foundation and executive editor of LSF Magazine. He has served in numerous academic posts, and is completing the definitive account of the origins of the biotechnology industry, entitled Translating Life, for Harvard University Press.

Physical location

Oral history number 0974

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • November 01, 1922
  • , Turkey
  • January 20, 2018
  • Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1949 Brown University BS Chemistry
1952 Harvard University PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Monsanto Company

  • 1952 Research Chemist
  • 1957 Monsanto Fellow
  • 1962 to 1968 Director of R&D, Organic Chemical Division
  • 1975 to 1980 Vice President, Rubber Chemicals Division
  • 1987 Corporate Officer and Vice Chairman of Corporate Development and Growth

Gateway Ventures

  • 1987 to 2006 Managing Director

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PDF — 548 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.

Audio File Web-quality download

1 Interview Segment Archival-quality download