Oral history interview with Marion David Francis

Oral history interview with Marion David Francis

  • 1997-Jan-24

Marion David Francis begins his interview with a discussion of his childhood in Canada. Deeply influenced by his industrious parents and siblings, Francis worked his way through high school and college at a logging camp. He received his B.A. in chemistry in 1946 and his M.A. in chemistry in 1949, both from the University of British Columbia. Francis married shortly after, and he and his wife moved to Iowa, where he continued his studies at the University of Iowa, obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1953.

Francis accepted a position with Procter & Gamble in 1952. His first work there involved research on detergents and skin penetration. Procter & Gamble then moved Francis into hair research. Finally, Francis moved to the dental section, where he became involved with fluoride research. Using both human and bovine dental samples, Francis explored enamel resistance to calcium fluoride. He also proved in other lab tests on rats that fluoride had an anti-enzymatic effect on teeth, and that fluoride treatments helped protect rats' teeth from decay. Francis continued to do dental research on calculus and its safe removal from teeth without damaging the enamel. Speaking on scientific innovation, Francis touches on team effort and support, as well as management and research and development. Francis concludes the interview with a reflection on winning his scientific awards and final thoughts on his family.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 51 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

Physical location

Oral history number 0153

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 09, 1923
  • Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada
  • May 10, 2016
  • Cincinnati, Ohio, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1946 University of British Columbia BA Chemistry
1949 University of British Columbia MA Chemistry
1953 University of Iowa PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

University of British Columbia

  • 1946 to 1949 Chemist

Canadian Fishing Company

  • 1946 Chemist

University of Iowa

  • 1949 to 1951 Research Assistant
  • 1951 to 1952 US Public Health Fellow

Procter & Gamble Company

  • 1952 to 1976 Research Chemist
  • 1976 to 1985 Senior Scientist
  • 1990 to 1993 Research Fellow, Victor Mills Society
  • 1993 Consultant

Norwich Pharma Services

  • 1985 to 1990 Senior Scientist


Year(s) Award
1977 Cincinnati Chemist of the Year Award, American Chemical Society, Cincinnati Section
1979 Professional Accomplishment Award in Industry, Technical and Scientific Societies Council of Cincinnati
1990 Technical Innovation Award, Victor Mills Society
1994 National Industrial Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society
1996 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
1996 Morley Award and Medal, American Chemical Society, Cleveland Section

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PDF — 404 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