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Oral history interview with Fred Basolo

  • 1991-Mar-01

Oral history interview with Fred Basolo

  • 1991-Mar-01

Fred Basolo begins this interview by discussing his childhood in Coello, Illinois, and his elementary and high school education. He attended Southern Illinois University where he studied to be a chemistry teacher but his instructors encouraged him to attend graduate school in chemistry. At University of Illinois, he studied inorganic chemistry with John Bailar. After receiving his PhD, he worked at Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia for three years. He decided to return to academia and accepted a positions as professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. His research interests have included kinetics and mechanisms, and metal carbonyls. Basolo describes the connections he made with Italian scientists and his American Chemical Society presidency and concludes by offering his opinion of how general and inorganic chemistry courses should be taught.

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

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 0091

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • February 11, 1920
  • Coello, Illinois, United States
  • February 27, 2007
  • Skokie, Illinois, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1940 Southern Illinois University (System) B Ed
1942 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign MS Inorganic Chemistry
1943 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign PhD Inorganic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Rohm and Haas Company

  • 1943 to 1946 Research Chemist

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)

  • 1946 to 1948 Instructor
  • 1948 to 1953 Assistant Professor
  • 1953 to 1959 Associate Professor
  • 1959 to 1980 Professor
  • 1969 to 1972 Chairman of the Department of Chemistry
  • 1980 to 1990 Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor
  • 1990 to 2003 Emeritus Morrison Professor


Year(s) Award
1954 to 1955 Guggenheim Fellow, University of Copenhagen
1961 to 1962 Senior NSF Fellow, University of Rome
1964 Award for Research in Inorganic Chemistry, American Chemical Society (ACS)
1969 NATO Distinguished Professor, Technische Universität München
1971 North Regional Section Citation of Excellence, ACS
1972 John C. Bailar, Jr. Medal, University of Illinois
1974 Alumni Achievement Award, Southern Illinois University
1975 Award for Distinguished Service in Inorganic Chemistry, ACS
1976 Francis Patrick Dwyer Medal, University of New South Wales, Australia
1977 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1977 Honorary Member, Phi Lambda Upsilon
1979 Fellow, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science
1979 Member, National Academy of Sciences
1981 Honorary Member, Italian Chemical Society
1981 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry, Northeastern Section, ACS
1983 President, ACS
1983 Oesper Memorial Award, ACS, Cincinnati Section
1983 Corresponding Member, Chemical Society of Peru
1983 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1984 D. Sc. (honorary), Southern Illinois University
1985 Honorary Professor, Lanzhou University, China
1987 Foreign Member, National Academy of Science, Italy
1988 Laurea honoris causa, University of Turin
1988 IX Century Medal, Bologna University
1988 Award for Research in Inorganic Chemistry, Italian Chemical Society
1988 Honorary Professor, Zhongshan University, China
1990 Harry and Carol Mosher Award, ACS, Santa Clara Valley
1991 Padova University Medal
1991 Distincion Bicentenaria, University of Los Andes in Merida
1991 Chinese Chemical Society Medal
1992 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1992 Sigma Xi Monie A. Ferst Award
1992 Humboldt Senior U. S. Scientist Award
1993 Gold Medal Award, American Institute of Chemists
1996 First Lecturer and Medalist of the Royal Society of Chemistry Joseph Chatt Award
1996 Josiah Williard Gibbs Medal
1996 Member, Chemistry Department Hall of Fame, Southern Illinois University
1997 Laurea honoris causa, University of Palermo, Sacconi Memorial Lecture
2000 Obelisk Leadership Award, Southern Illinois University
2001 Joseph Priestly Medal

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PDF — 2.7 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

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads