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Oral history interview with Russell E. Marker

  • 1987-Apr-17

Oral history interview with Russell E. Marker

  • 1987-Apr-17

Russell Marker begins the interview by describing his childhood in a farming community in Maryland, his early schooling, and his growing interest in organic chemistry while a student at the University of Maryland. He then talks about his first jobs at the Naval Powder Factory and the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, where he devised the octane rating system. Marker then discusses his subsequent move to the Rockefeller Institute. He elaborates on his interest in synthesizing human hormones from plants, resulting in a fellowship at Penn State and his first travels to Mexico to examine indigenous plant life. Marker then describes his laboratory work and business ventures in Mexico, including his role in forming the companies Syntex and Botanica-Mex. Marker concludes by discussing his leaving chemical research and newfound interest in silver reproduction.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 45 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

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an AB in history from Princeton University and a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0068

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Interviewee biographical information

  • March 12, 1902
  • Hagerstown, Maryland, United States
  • March 03, 1995
  • Wernersville, Pennsylvania, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1923 University of Maryland, College Park BS Chemistry
1924 University of Maryland, College Park MS Chemistry
1925 University of Maryland, College Park Completed thesis requirements for Ph.D.

Professional Experience

United States Naval Powder Factory

  • 1925 to 1926 Chemist

Ethyl Corporation

  • 1926 to 1928 Chemist

Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research

  • 1928 to 1935 Chemist

Pennsylvania State University

  • 1935 to 1936 Fellow, Department of Chemistry
  • 1936 Assistant Professor, Department of Chemisty
  • 1942 Professor, Department of Chemistry

Syntex Corporation

  • 1944 to 1945 Partner

Botanica-Mex S.A.

  • 1945 to 1946 Owner

Hormosynth S.A.

  • 1946 to 1949 Consultant


Year(s) Award
1969 Honorary Member, Mexican Chemical Society
1984 The Russell Marker Lectures in the Chemical Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

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PDF — 1018 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

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads