Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Chalmer G. Kirkbride

  • 1993-Jul-15

Oral history interview with Chalmer G. Kirkbride

  • 1993-Jul-15

Chalmer Kirkbride begins the interview by describing his family background and childhood in Oklahoma and Kansas. During high school, Kirkbride's interests were influenced by his brother-in-law, a chemist for Sherwin-Williams. Kirkbride studied chemical engineering at the University of Michigan and spent summers working in the oil fields. He was recruited on campus by Standard Oil of Indiana and worked at the Whiting refinery. Kirkbride also worked for the Pan American Transport Company and Magnolia Petroleum Corporation before being appointed as the first distinguished engineering professor at Texas A&M University. In 1947, Kirkbride returned to industry when he was recruited by the Houdry Process Corporation. He became president of Houdry before moving to Sun Oil Company, where he created a commercial development department and began taking an active interest in environmental issues. After his retirement Kirkbride became president of the Cecil County Anti-Pollution league, founded Kirkbride Associates, and participated in board activities at Widener University.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 59 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

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.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0113

Learn More

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 27, 1906
  • Tyrone, Oklahoma, United States
  • June 16, 1998
  • Manatee County


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1930 University of Michigan BSE Chemical Engineering
2016 University of Michigan MSE Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)

  • 1930 to 1934 Chemical Engineer

Pan American Refining Company

  • 1934 to 1941 Director of Technical Services

United States. Army

  • 1935 to 1940 Second Lieutenant, Chemical Warfare Service

Magnolia Petroleum Company

  • 1942 to 1944 Chief of Chemical Engineering Development

Texas A & M University

  • 1944 to 1947 Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering

Secretary of War

  • 1946 Consultant

Houdry Process Corporation

  • 1947 to 1952 Vice President, Research and Development
  • 1947 to 1962 Member, Board of Directors
  • 1952 to 1956 President and Chairman of The Board

Catalytic Construction Company

  • 1952 to 1954 Director

Sun Oil Company

  • 1956 to 1960 Executive Director, Research, Engineering, and Patents
  • 1958 to 1968 Member, Board of Directors, Sunolin Chemical Company
  • 1959 to 1960 President, Avisun Corporation
  • 1959 to 1968 Member, Board of Directors, Avisun Corporation
  • 1960 to 1970 Vice President, Commercial Development, Research, Engineering, & Patents
  • 1963 to 1970 Member, Board of Directors

United States. Federal Energy Administration

  • 1974 Petroleum and Chemical Specialist

Kirkbride Associates

  • 1977 President


Year(s) Award
1951 Professional Progress Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1959 ScD (honorary), Beaver College (Arcadia University)
1960 Eng D (honorary), Drexel University
1964 Engineer of the Year, Delaware County Chapter, The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers
1965 Kirkbride Hall of Science and Engineering, Widener University
1967 National Academy of Engineering
1967 Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineering
1968 Distinguished Public Service Award, US Navy
1970 Eng D (honorary), Widener University
1970 Engineering Centennial Medal, Widener University
1971 George Washington Award, Philadelphia Engineering Club
1976 Fuels and Petrochemical Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1983 Eminent Chemical Engineer, American Institute of Chemical Engineering

Cite as

See our FAQ page to learn how to cite an oral history.

PDF — 259 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