Oral history interview with Rudolf Signer
Rudolf Signer starts this interview by talking about his family background in Herisau. The Kantonschule at St. Gallen emphasized mathematics and the sciences, and there, Signer's youthful interests in astronomy and philosophy were reinforced. Study of chemistry at ETH followed, and Signer recalls some of his professors there. Graduate research on polyoxymethylenes with Staudinger introduced Signer to the young field of polymer chemistry, and he remembers the controversy about Staudinger's macromolecular hypothesis. Moving to Freiburg with Staudinger, Signer set up equipment to measure streaming birefringence, which proved a powerful technique of the solution characterization of polymers. A Rockefeller Fellowship enabled Signer to work with Svedberg at Uppsala and to apply ultracentrifugal sedimentation to synthetic polymers in organic solvents. The rest of that postdoctoral year was spent at Manchester with Bragg, where Rudolf Signer used X-rays for structural investigations. Signer also expounds on his decision to leave Freiburg and on his acceptance of a chair at the University of Berne. The interview includes mention of much research made at Berne, including the isolation and characterization of nucleic acids, water-protein interactions, molecular separation techniques and the thermodynamics of polymer solutions. Signer concludes with recollections of a post-war tour of the United States and of his memories of Staudinger.
|Place of interview|
|Rights||Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License|
About the Interviewer
Tonja A. Koeppel received a master’s degree in chemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1944. Since then she has written about chemistry, done research, and taught college chemistry. Dr. Koeppel is also a historian of chemistry. In 1973 she earned a PhD degree in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania. She is especially interested in the development of organic chemistry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
|Oral history number||0056|
|View in library catalog|
Interviewee biographical information
|1928||Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich||PhD||Chemistry|
Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
- 1926 to 1935 Teaching Assistant and Research Fellow
- 1935 to 1937 Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry
- 1937 to 1972 Professor of Organic Chemistry
|1933||Rockefeller Fellowship, Uppsala and Manchester|
|1948||Rockefeller Special Fellowship, USA|
|1949||Lavoisier Medal, La Société Chimique de France|
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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.