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.