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Oral history interview with Manson Benedict

  • 1991-Jan-24

Oral history interview with Manson Benedict

  • 1991-Jan-24

Manson Benedict begins the interview with a discussion of his family background, including the highlights of his father's career in chemistry. He recalls how his early enthusiasm for chemistry was promoted both by his father's work and his summer jobs with Calumet and Hecla Copper Company. He then tells of his dissatisfaction with his Cornell University education, his year at National Aniline, and his decision to enroll at the University of Chicago to obtain a broader liberal education during which he explored economics and socialism. After a colorful description of a summer's work on a fruit farm in Washington state, Benedict describes his enrollment in a graduate physical chemistry program at MIT. He then discusses his National Research Fellowship at Harvard and his decision to work at Kellogg, where he developed the Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation. He describes his significant role in the Manhattan Project, and touches on his subsequent appointment to the Atomic Energy Commission. He concludes the interview with his return to MIT to develop a nuclear engineering curriculum, the accomplishment of which he is most proud.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 79 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 0088

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • October 09, 1907
  • Lake Linden, Michigan, United States
  • September 18, 2006
  • Naples, Florida, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1928 Cornell University BChem
1932 Massachusetts Institute of Technology MS Physical Chemistry
1935 Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

National Aniline and Chemical Company

  • 1929 to 1930 Research Chemist
  • 1937 to 1938 Research Chemist

Harvard University

  • 1935 to 1936 National Research Council Fellow
  • 1936 to 1937 Research Associate in Geophysics

M.W. Kellogg Company

  • 1938 to 1943 Research Chemist

Hydrocarbon Research, Inc.

  • 1943 to 1951 Director, Process Development

U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

  • 1951 to 1957 Chief, Operational Analysis Staff

National Research Corporation (U.S.)

  • 1951 to 1957 Scientific Advisor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • 1951 to 1969 Professor of Nuclear Engineering
  • 1958 to 1971 Head, Nuclear Engineering Department
  • 1969 to 1973 Institute Professor
  • 1973 to 1992 Institute Professor Emeritus

Burns and Roe

  • 1979 to 1985 Director


Year(s) Award
1947 William H. Walker Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1963 Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
1966 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1966 Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1968 Robert E. Wilson Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1969 Arthur Holly Compton Award, American Nuclear Society
1972 Enrico Fermi Award, U. S. Atomic Energy Commission
1975 John Fritz Medal, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1976 National Medal of Science
1976 Founders Award, National Academy of Engineering
1983 Glenn Seaborg Award, International Platform Association

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PDF — 350 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

10 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads