Oral history interview with Marinus Los

Oral history interview with Marinus Los

  • 1995-Jan-17

The interview begins with Dr. Marinus Los' description of his family's origins in The Netherlands. When he was two years old, his family moved to England, where he received his early education during World War II. Encouraged by his older brother, Los studied chemistry at Edinburgh University, where he first became interested in biochemistry. He conducted his PhD research on heterocyclic analogs of azulene under W. H. Stafford. Stafford encouraged Los to study at the National Research Council in Canada. There, he conducted research in the structural chemistry of alkaloids and plants under Leo E. Marion. In 1960, Los became a research chemist at Lederle Laboratories, now a division of the American Cyanamid Company. Under Milon E. Bullock, he conducted early research on insect control via an insect molting hormone discovered by Dr. Peter Karlson. Los also worked on a synthetic steroid project involving anabolic steroids and artificial insemination for cows. He briefly returned to Edinburgh University's Department of Pharmacology to organize a research program in prostaglandins. On returning to American Cyanamid, led at the time by George J. Sella, Jr. , Los switched to research on herbicides. In his research on plant growth regulators (PGRs), Los's work on imidazolinones led to the herbicides Assert, Arsenal and Pursuit. This work won him the National Medal of Technology. Los ends the interview by discussing his later career as first Senior Group Leader and then Research Director, focusing on his approach to the encouragement of teamwork at American Cyanamid.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 57 pages
  • 2 h 59 m 25 s
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 J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.

Physical location

Oral history number 0127

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • September 18, 1933
  • Ridderkerk, Netherlands


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1955 University of Edinburgh BSc Chemistry
1957 University of Edinburgh PhD Organic Chemistry

Professional Experience

National Research Council Canada

  • 1958 to 1960 Research Fellow

American Cyanamid Company

  • 1960 to 1971 Senior Research Chemist
  • 1971 to 1984 Group Leader, Organic Synthesis
  • 1984 to 1986 Senior Group Leader, Herbicide Discovery
  • 1986 to 1988 Manager, Crop Protection Chemical Discovery
  • 1988 to 1992 Associate Director, Crop Sciences
  • 1992 to 1996 Research Director, Crop Sciences Discovery
  • 1996 Retired

University of Edinburgh

  • 1969 to 1970 Senior Research Fellow, Department of Pharmacology


Year(s) Award
1954 Boots Drummond Prize in Biochemistry, Edinburgh University
1955 Blandfield Prize in Chemistry, Edinburgh University
1981 Cyanamid Scientific Achievement Award, American Cyanamid Company
1984 Cyanamid President's Award for Excellence in Agriculture, American Cyanamid Company
1990 Distinguished Inventor, Intellectual Property Owners, Inc.
1991 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award, New Jersey Research & Development Council
1993 National Medal of Technology
1994 Achievement Award, Industrial Research Institute
1994 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1995 Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society

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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