Oral history interview with Herbert C. Brown

Oral history interview with Herbert C. Brown

  • 1994-Nov-11

Herbert C. Brown studied at Crane Junior College, where he became fascinated by chemistry and its history; when Crane closed down, Brown was among the students invited to work in Nicholas D. Cheronis' Synthetical Laboratories, where he earned enough to enroll in a University of Chicago correspondence course on qualitative analysis and supplemented his education by working with Fales's Quantitative Analysis. Brown continued his studies and lab work at Wright Junior College and the University of Chicago. During his career he worked at the University of Chicago, Wayne State University, and later Purdue University; during the interview he detailed his studies on steric effects, boranes, and borohydride synthesis. Brown worked for the National Defense Research Committee during World War II, which included research on the volatile compounds of uranium, uranium borohydride production and testing, sodium trimethoxyborohydride production, and sodium borohydride development.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 51 pages
  • 2h 26m 19s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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.

Physical location

Oral history number 0117

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 22, 1912
  • London, United Kingdom
  • December 19, 2004
  • Lafayette, Indiana, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1935 Wilbur Wright Junior College Assoc. Sci.
1936 University of Chicago BS
1938 University of Chicago PhD Inorganic Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of Chicago

  • 1938 to 1939 Eli Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow
  • 1939 to 1943 Instructor of Chemistry
  • 1941 to 1943 Instructor and Research Investigator

Wayne State University

  • 1943 to 1946 Assistant Professor
  • 1946 to 1947 Associate Professor

Purdue University

  • 1947 to 1959 Professor of Chemistry
  • 1959 to 1960 Wetherill Professor of Chemistry
  • 1960 to 1978 Wetherill Research Professor of Chemistry
  • 1978 to 1995 Emeritus Wetherill Research Professor of Chemistry


Year(s) Award
1951 Sigma Xi Award, Purdue Section of Sigma Xi
1953 Harrison Howe Award, Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society
1955 Centenary Lectureship and Medal, The Chemical Society, London, England
1957 Elected to National Academy of Science
1959 William H. Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society
1960 Award for Creative Research in Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1960 S. O. C. M.A. Medal, Society of Organic Chemistry Manufacturing Association
1961 Phi Lambda Upsilon Key for Honorary Membership, Phi Lambda Upsilon
1962 Honorary Member, Phi Lambda Upsilon
1962 Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1968 Linus Pauling Medal, Oregon and Puget Sound Sections, American Chemical Society
1968 Doctor of Science, University of Chicago
1969 National Medal of Science
1971 Roger Adams Medal, Organic Division, American Chemical Society
1972 Phi Beta Kappa
1973 Charles Frederick Chandler Medal, Department of Chemistry, Columbia University
1974 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1975 Madison Marshall Award
1976 City College of New York Chemistry Alumni Award and Medal for Scientific Achievement
1977 Elected Fellow, Indian National Science Academy
1977 Honorary Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry
1978 C. K. Ingold Lecture and Medal, The Chemical Society, London
1978 Elliot Cresson Medal, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia
1979 The Nobel Award and Medal, The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden
1980 Medal of Culture, Ministry of Education, Taiwan, ROC
1980 Nobel Hall of Science, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
1980 Honorary Member, Chinese Chemical Society
1980 Honorary Old Master, Purdue University
1980 Doctor of Science, Wayne State University
1980 Doctor of Science, Lebanon Valley College
1980 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Long Island University
1980 Doctor Philosophiae honoris causa, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
1980 Grado Academico Honorifico de Doctor Scientiae honoris causa, Pontificia
1981 Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society
1981 Doctor of Science, Purdue University
1981 Doctor in Scientiae honoris causa, University of Wales
1982 Perkin Medal, American Section, Society of Chemical Industry
1982 Elected Honorary Member, The Indiana Academy
1982 Honorary Member, Pharmaceutical Society of Japan
1982 Honorary Member, Chemical Society of Japan
1982 Corresponding Member, Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico
1982 Doctor of Science, Butler University
1982 Docteur honoris causa, Université de Paris-Sud
1983 A. J. Beckman Memorial Medal, Colorado School of Mines
1983 Honorary Member, Gold Key National Honor Society
1985 A. I. C. Gold Medal, American Institute of Chemists
1985 Doctor of Science, Ball State University
1986 Sixtieth Anniversary Commemorative Medal, Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences
1986 Sesquicentennial Commemorative Medal, National Library of Medicine
1987 National Academy of Sciences Award and Medal in Chemical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
1987 G. M. Kosolapoff Award and Medal, Auburn Section, American Chemical Society
1987 Dedication of the H. C. Brown Laboratories of Chemistry
1989 Medal of the Government of Japan: Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star Emperor, Government of Japan
1990 Oesper Award, Cincinnati Section, American Chemical Society
1991 Honorary Member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of the Russian Federal Republic
1991 Corresponding Member, Academia Mexicana de la Investigation Cientifica
1994 Honorary Scholar, University of Wales, Swansea, Wales
1994 Honorary Professor, Laboratory of Organometallic Chemistry, Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences
1995 University Medal of Highest Honor, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea
1995 Distinguished Scholar Award, Indiana Academy of Science
1996 Visitante Distinguido, BUSA V-MEX, Mexico
1996 Visitante Distinguido, La Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico

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PDF — 2.4 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