Oral history interview with Charles E. Reed

Oral history interview with Charles E. Reed

  • 1986-Jul-11

Charles Reed begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and early education. Reed grew up in Findlay, Ohio, and credits his high school teachers with fostering his interest in the sciences. He attended Case School of Applied Science, earning his B.S. in chemistry in 1934. At Case, he was influenced greatly by Professor Carl Prutton, and Reed decided to continue on to graduate school. There, Reed wanted to pursue both chemistry and chemical engineering, and he combined his interests at MIT, where he earned his D.Sc. in chemical engineering in 1937. His thesis focused on colloid chemistry, which led to his later fascination with polymer chemistry. Upon receiving his doctorate, Reed became an assistant professor at MIT. While there, he also began to consult for various companies.

In 1942, he accepted a permanent position with General Electric Company, where he spent the rest of his career. His first work involved organosilicon polymers and the scaling up of processes. When G.E. decided to set up a chemical engineering department, Reed was selected as the manager. Through the years, Reed gradually moved up the management ladder, becoming senior vice-president of corporate technology in 1971. During his time at G.E., he helped scale up the silicone processes and worked on phenolic laminates, the commercial development of synthetic diamonds, and the development of both polycarbonates and polyphenylene oxide. Reed concludes the interview with his thoughts on the future of G.E. and his experience as a member of one of its Sector Boards.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 65 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

George Wise is a communications specialist at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady, New York. He holds a BS in engineering physics from Lehigh University, an MS in physics from University of Michigan, and a PhD in history from Boston University. He worked briefly as a systems engineer before entering his current career in public relations. He has published a book and several articles about the history of industrial research, invention and science. His current research interest is how people can learn from history.

Physical location

Oral history number 0051

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • August 11, 1913
  • Findlay, Ohio, United States
  • November 16, 2007
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1934 Case Institute of Technology BS Chemistry
1937 Massachusetts Institute of Technology DSc Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • 1937 to 1942 Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

General Electric Company

  • 1942 to 1945 Research Associate
  • 1945 to 1952 Engineering Manager, Chemical Division
  • 1952 to 1959 General Manager, Silicone Products Department
  • 1959 to 1962 General Manager, Silicone & Metal Products Department
  • 1962 to 1968 Vice-President and General Manager, Chemical and Metals Division
  • 1968 to 1971 Vice-President and Group Executive, Components and Materials Group
  • 1971 to 1979 Senior Vice-President, Corporate Technology


Year(s) Award
1971 Elected, National Academy of Engineering
1971 Commercial Development Association Award

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PDF — 265 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

7 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads