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Photograph of E. Bright Wilson Jr.
Science History Institute Collections, Photograph by Ray Ferguson

Oral history interview with E. Bright Wilson, Jr.

  • 1986-Nov-17 (First session)
  • 1986-Nov-18 (Second session)

Oral history interview with E. Bright Wilson, Jr.

  • 1986-Nov-17 (First session)
  • 1986-Nov-18 (Second session)

E. Bright Wilson, Jr. begins the interview with a description of his parents, childhood, and early education. He then discusses his undergraduate and graduate studies at Princeton University, where he was inspired by the intellectual atmosphere and affable faculty. After reviewing the curriculum, his senior thesis on quantum mechanics, and his experience at Tuxedo Park, he recalls his years at the California Institute of Technology, where he began work with vibration and group theory. Next, he describes his work at Harvard, focusing on advances in spectroscopy, and his government research at Woods Hole and in Washington, D.C. Wilson concludes with a brief profile of his family and a few remarks on his publications.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 60 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

Raymond C. Ferguson obtained his degrees in chemistry from Iowa State University (BS, MS) and Harvard University (PhD). He worked in research divisions of the Organic Chemicals, Elastomer Chemicals, and Central Research Departments of DuPont, principally in molecular spectroscopy, organic structure analysis, and polymer characterization. Currently he is affiliated with CONDUX, Inc., a consulting association of former DuPont professionals.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0061

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 18, 1908
  • Gallatin, Tennessee, United States
  • July 12, 1992
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1930 Princeton University BS Chemistry
1931 Princeton University MA
1933 California Institute of Technology PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

California Institute of Technology

  • 1933 to 1934 Research Fellow

Harvard University

  • 1934 to 1936 Junior Fellow, Society of Fellows
  • 1936 to 1939 Assistant Professor
  • 1939 to 1946 Associate Professor
  • 1946 to 1979 Professor
  • 1947 to 1979 Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry
  • 1979 Professor Emeritus

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

  • 1942 to 1944 Research Director, Underwater Explosives Research Laboratory

United States. Office of Scientific Research and Development. National Defense Research Committee

  • 1944 to 1946 Chief, Division 2

United States. Department of Defense

  • 1952 to 1953 Weapons System Evaluation Group


Year(s) Award
1937 Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1942 Honorary MA, Harvard University
1948 Medal for Merit, United States Government
1949 to 1950 Guggenheim Fellow
1962 Debye Award in Physical Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1966 Alumni Distinguished Service Award, California Institute of Technology
1966 James Flack Norris Award in Teaching of Chemistry, Northeast Section, American Chemical Society
1969 G. N. Lewis Award, California Section, American Chemical Society
1970 to 1971 Guggenheim Fellow
1972 Pauling Award, Oregon and Puget Sound Section, American Chemical Society
1973 Rumford Medal, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1975 D. honoris causa, Free University of Brussels
1976 Honorary DSc degree, Dickinson College
1976 Dr chemistry, University of Bologna
1976 National Medal of Science
1976 Antonio Feltrinelli Award, Rome, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
1977 Monie A. Ferst Award, Sigma Xi
1978 Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award
1978 T. W. Richards Medal, Northeast Section, American Chemical Society
1978 Robert A. Welch Award
1978 Earl A. Plyler Award, American Physical Society
1979 Honorary DSc degree, Columbia University
1979 Willard Gibbs Award
1979 Lippincott Medal
1981 Honorary DSc degree, Princeton University
1983 Honorary DSc degree, Clarkson College
1983 Honorary DSc degree, Harvard University

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PDF — 266 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

7 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads