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Oral history interview with Bruno H. Zimm

  • 1986-Sep-09

Oral history interview with Bruno H. Zimm

  • 1986-Sep-09

Bruno Zimm recalls growing up in Woodstock, New York and the influence of his father's interests in natural science. After briefly reviewing his schooldays and his developing fascination with science, Zimm describes his undergraduate and graduate studies at Columbia. During this section of the interview, he recalls faculty and curricula and describes the effect of World War II on the research activities at Columbia. In 1944, Zimm transferred to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute to work on a wartime project on the degradation of polyvinyl chloride. Herem he also first started his study of the theory and practice of the light scattering of polymer solutions, which he continued at the University of California, Berkeley. From there and after a one year sabbatical at Harvard, Zimm moved to the General Electric laboratories at Schenectady, where he further developed his studies of dynamic methods for the investigation of polymer solutions. A short time as a visiting professor at Yale rekindled his interests in biological polymers, especially DNA. At the new University of California, San Diego campus at La Jolla, Zimm continued instrumental research as well as his theoretical interests, which he briefly reviews. The interview closes with Zimm reflecting on the changes in polymer science over the duration of his career, and he comments on educational opportunities in this discipline.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 51 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.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0055

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • October 31, 1920
  • Woodstock, New York, United States
  • November 26, 2005
  • La Jolla, California, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1941 Columbia University AB Chemistry
1943 Columbia University MS Chemistry
1944 Columbia University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Columbia University

  • 1941 to 1944 Teaching Assistant

Polytechnic Institute of New York

  • 1944 to 1946 Research Assistant and Instructor

University of California, Berkeley

  • 1946 to 1950 Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • 1950 to 1952 Associate Professor of Chemistry

General Electric Company

  • 1951 to 1960 Research Associate

University of California, San Diego

  • 1960 Professor of Chemistry


Year(s) Award
1957 Baekland Award, North Jersey Section, American Chemical Society
1958 Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
1960 Bingham Medal, Society of Rheology
1963 High Polymer Physics Award, American Physical Society
1981 Chemical Sciences Award, National Academy of Sciences
1982 Kirkwood Medal, New Haven Section, American Chemical Society

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PDF — 1.9 MB

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

5 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads