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Oral history interview with John C. Warner

  • 1984-Feb-08

Oral history interview with John C. Warner

  • 1984-Feb-08

John C. Warner begins the interview with a discussion of his family and childhood years growing up on a farm. He developed an interest in science in high school due to the encouragement of his science teacher, G. W. Warner. He enrolled in Indiana University in 1915. There, he received his A.B. in chemistry in 1919, his M.A. in 1920, and his Ph.D. in 1923. While in college, Warner worked for the Barrett Company working on synthetic phenol processing. As a graduate student, he was a research chemist for the Cosden Oil Company. After working for Cosden for just under a year, he returned to Indiana University as a chemistry instructor while completing his graduate studies.

In 1926, he joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie-Mellon University) as a chemistry instructor. Warner spent the rest of his career at Carnegie. He rose through the university ranks, eventually becoming president of the Carnegie-Mellon in 1950. Warner restructured and developed the University's chemistry department. During his time at Carnegie, he worked closely with Charles Thomas on the chemistry, metallurgy, and plutonium purification aspects of the Manhattan Project. He also served as a liaison between Oak Ridge Laboratories and Monsanto Company for this project. Warner became a board member of Jones and Laughlin, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, and served as director of Spang and Company. Warner concludes the interview with a discussion of his family and reflections on his role in the advanced educational development in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 95 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

John A. Heitmann holds a BS degree in chemistry from Davidson College and an MA degree in history from Clemson University. From 1971 to 1977, he worked as a chemist in the metallurgical industry. He then studied at the Johns Hopkins University under Owen Hannaway and received his doctorate in the history of science in 1983.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0044

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 28, 1897
  • Goshen, Indiana, United States
  • April 12, 1989
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1919 Indiana University AB Chemistry
1920 Indiana University MA Chemistry
2016 Indiana University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Barrett Company

  • 1918 to 1919 Chemist

Cosden Oil Company

  • 1920 to 1921 Research Chemist

Indiana University

  • 1922 to 1923 Chemistry Instructor

Wayne Chemicals Corporation

  • 1924 to 1926 Research Chemist

Carnegie Institute of Technology

  • 1926 to 1928 Chemistry Instructor
  • 1928 to 1933 Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • 1933 to 1936 Associate Professor of Theoretical Chemistry
  • 1936 to 1938 Associate Professor of Metallurgy
  • 1938 to 1949 Professor of Chemistry and Department Head
  • 1945 to 1949 Dean of Graduate Studies
  • 1949 to 1950 Vice President and President Elect
  • 1950 to 1965 President
  • 1965 to 1989 President-Emeritus


Year(s) Award
1958 Pittsburgh Junior Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Award
1963 Pittsburgh Graphic Arts Council Award
1964 Horatio Alger Award
1965 Western Pennsylvania Board of Industrial Realtors Award
1966 Pennsylvania Award for Excellence in Education
1968 Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indiana University

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PDF — 430 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