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Oral history interview with Harold A. Scheraga

  • 1987-Feb-10

Oral history interview with Harold A. Scheraga

  • 1987-Feb-10

Harold Scheraga starts this interview by recalling his childhood in Monticello, New York and then in Brooklyn, where he attended Brooklyn Boys High School. There he was attracted to Latin and mathematics. Scheraga decided to concentrate on chemistry only when he began attending the City College of New York. In the late thirties, CCNY graduates met some difficulties when trying to continue to graduate school. However, Scheraga was offered a place at Duke University, where the chemistry department was chaired by Paul Gross, himself a CCNY graduate. Along with his graduate research on the Kerr effect, Scheraga contributed to the wartime projects on the frangible bullet and on gas-phase halogenation. Influenced in part by the Cohn and Edsall book Peptides, Amino-Acids and Proteins, Scheraga consolidated his growing interest in biochemical areas by a postdoctoral year at Harvard. From there, he was appointed as an instructor in the chemistry department at Cornell, where he has spent the rest of his career, including a period (1960-1967) as chairman. During the 1970s, he was also a visiting professor at the Weizmann Institute. In the second part of his interview with Bohning, Scheraga describes the development of his research activities He first goes into the hydrodynamic properties of polymer solutions, which then led to his extensive work on protein structure and function. Scheraga also recounts his achievements as departmental chairman, with the construction of the new chemistry building and the appointment of new faculty. International collaboration has always been important to Scheraga, and he details his sabbaticals at the Carlsberg laboratory and his later association with the Weizmann Institute.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 61 pages
  • 1987-02-10
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 0064
Physical container
  • Shelfmark QD22.S347 A5 1987

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • October 18, 1921
  • Brooklyn, New York, United States
  • August 01, 2020
  • Ithaca, New York, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1941 City University of New York. City College BS Chemistry
1942 Duke University AM Chemistry
1946 Duke University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

  • 1946 to 1947 American Chemical Society Postdoctoral Fellow

Cornell University

  • 1947 to 1950 Instructor of Chemistry
  • 1950 to 1953 Assistant Professor
  • 1953 to 1958 Associate Professor
  • 1958 to 1965 Professor
  • 1960 to 1967 Chairman, Chemistry Department
  • 1965 to 1988 Todd Professor of Chemistry

Mekhon Ṿaitsman le-madaʻ

  • 1970 to 1980 Visiting Professor


Year(s) Award
1956 to 1957 Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Research Scholar, Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen
1957 Eli Lilly Award, American Chemical Society
1961 Honorary DSc, Duke University
1962 Welch Foundation Lecturer, University of Texas
1963 Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Research Scholar, Weizmann Institute, Rehovoth, Israel
1966 Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
1967 Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1968 Harvey Lecturer, New York
1968 to 1969 Gallagher Lecturer, City College of New York
1970 Townsend Harris Lecturer, City College of New York
1973 Lemieux Lecturer, University of Ottawa
1974 Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society
1976 Hill Lecturer, Duke University
1977 City College Chemistry Alumni Scientific Achievement Award Medal
1978 Kendall Award, Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1981 Venable Lecturer, University of North Carolina
1983 Linderstrøm-Lang Medal, Carlsberg Laboratory
1983 Kowalski Medal, International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis
1985 Pauling Medal, Puget Sound and Oregon Sections, American Chemical Society
1985 Honorary Life Member, New York Academy of Sciences
1989 Honorary Member, Hungarian Biophysical Society
1990 Mobil Award in Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1990 Repligen Award for Chemistry of Biological Processes, American Chemical Society

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PDF — 4.2 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

8 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads