Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Frank J. Biondi

  • 1996-Mar-19

Oral history interview with Frank J. Biondi

  • 1996-Mar-19

This interview discusses Frank J. Biondi's education, career, and involvement in The Electrochemical Society, beginning with college experiences as a chemical engineering major at Lehigh University and initial work at Bell Telephone Laboratories [BTL]. Biondi describes his position within the structure of BTL in the 1930s and reasons for his pursuit of graduate education at Columbia University.

After completing his master's degree in chemical engineering, he enrolled in the Ph.D. program and became involved in the Manhattan Project. Biondi worked on a gaseous diffusion program to separate uranium 235 from uranium ore, designing the diffusion barrier used for the atom bomb. Biondi describes the reasons for Union Carbide's appropriation of his barrier's design and related patent applications and process details, and the subsequent manufacture of large amounts of barrier.

After making his contribution to the Manhattan project, Biondi returned to BTL work and focused on electronics, initially developing long-life cathodes used by the British during the war. He continued cathode work, becoming involved with the ASTM to standardize three nickel alloys for electronics industry electron tube cathodes. Biondi describes his rise through various BTL departments, his entry into transistor work, and associations with The ECS, which began in an effort to assure BTL metallurgists designing semiconductor devises an outlet for publishing and presenting their work.

After touching on solid state activity and descriptions of new electrochemical processes in ECS publications the interview returns to Biondi's BTL career progress, particularly his relationships with N. Bruce Hannay and R. M. Burns, the electronics industry's first dust-free white room, semiconductor work for satellites, and improvements in battery manufacture and design. The interview closes with comments on the effects of changes related to AT&T and Lucent Technologies, the future of The ECS, and consulting work since retirement from BTL.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 57 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

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0147

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • September 22, 1914
  • Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States
  • October 05, 2003
  • Palm Beach, Florida, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
Polytechnic Institute of New York Chemical Engineering (from 1940-1942)
1936 Lehigh University BS, with honors Chemical Engineering
1940 Columbia University MS Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Bell Telephone Laboratories

  • 1936 to 1948 Member of Technical Staff, Chemical Research and Development
  • 1948 to 1958 Member of Technical Staff, Supervisor, Electronic Material and Processing
  • 1958 to 1962 Department Head, Electronic Material and Processing
  • 1962 to 1979 Laboratory Director, Electron Device Materials and Processes Laboratory

United States. Army. Corps of Engineers

  • 1940 to 1943 worked on the Manhattan Project

Bond Engineering, Inc.

  • 1979 to 1989 President


Year(s) Award
1945 Certificate, US War Department, Army Service Forces/Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District, in appreciation for work essential to the production of the Atom Bomb
1946 Award for Chemical Engineering Achievement, Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

Cite as

See our FAQ page to learn how to cite an oral history.

PDF — 298 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

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads