The interview begins with Dr. Hannay describing his family background and his early education in Washington state. Both his high school chemistry teacher and his older brother greatly influenced his decision to pursue chemistry and to attend Swarthmore College, where he received a B.A. in chemistry in 1942. With the advent of World War II, Hannay received a student deferment from the draft because his doctoral thesis at Princeton University--involving the measurement of dipole moments--related to the synthetic rubber program.
While still at Princeton, Hugh Taylor involved him in the Manhattan Project and after receiving his Ph.D. in 1944, Hannay took a job with Bell Laboratories, where he continued his work on the Manhattan Project. Once the war ended, Hannay began research on the mechanisms of thermionic emission from oxide cathodes. The invention of the transistor in 1947 led him to focus on silicon, which was deemed more useful in semiconductor research than single crystals of germanium. This work resulted in Hannay's development of a mass spectrograph to analyze solids. Soon after, Bell Labs asked him to coordinate the silicon research. In 1954, Hannay became a research supervisor, and he discovered a preference for management. Following this inclination, he continued on at Bell Labs in various management capacities until his retirement in 1982. This interview concludes with Hannay's brief assessment of the chemical industry and its need for more research autonomy.