Oral history interview with Irving S. Shapiro

Oral history interview with Irving S. Shapiro

  • 1994-Dec-15

Irving Shapiro begins this interview by discussing his parents' backgrounds and the influence of his father's interest in law and accounting. Next Shapiro examines his own early intellectual strengths and proclivities and his undergraduate and law school performance. He describes the path which took him from a private practice in Minneapolis, to the U.S. Office of Price Administration during WWII, to the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division, where his highly publicized work prosecuting the eleven Communists brought him to the attention of the DuPont legal department. Shapiro recalls how his appointment as a DuPont General Counsel heralded a new era for the company in terms of its attitude toward Jews. In considering his advancement to CEO, Shapiro emphasizes his relationships with Walter Carpenter, Crawford Greenewalt, and Charles McCoy, as well as his work with the industrial departments and in disputes involving General Motors, Ford Motors, and Ralph Nader.

Next, while discussing his career as CEO, Shapiro explains how his management and communication practices impacted on public and internal views of DuPont and allowed talented employees to blossom. He touches on his relationships with Edward Kane and Edward Jefferson and his commitment to DuPont's research and development, and he speaks more generally of his views of foreign competition, business-community relations with the media and government, the Business Roundtable, and his legacy to the history of DuPont. Finally, Shapiro describes his post-DuPont work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom, and at the Howard Hughes Institute.

Property Value
Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 54 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 Interviewers

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.

Bernadette McNulty, former oral history project manager for the Chemical Heritage Foundation, holds a BA in communications and social work and an MA and PhD in communications. She held several teaching and research-related appointments, including positions at Muhlenberg and Rowan Colleges and Temple University, before joining CHF's oral history program in 1994.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • July 15, 1916
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
  • September 13, 2001
  • Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Professional Experience


  • 1941 Attorney, private law practice

United States. Office of Price Administration

  • 1941 to 1943 Attorney

United States. Department of Justice

  • 1943 to 1951 Attorney, Criminal Division

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

  • 1951 to 1965 Attorney, Legal Department
  • 1965 to 1970 Assistant General Counsel
  • 1970 to 1972 Vice President
  • 1970 to 1973 Director, Executive Committee Member
  • 1972 to 1974 Senior Vice President
  • 1973 Vice Chairman of the Board
  • 1974 to 1981 Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board, Finance Committee Member, Chairman of Public Affairs Committee

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

  • 1981 to 1990 Partner
  • 1990 to 2001 Of counsel


Year(s) Award
1979 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry

Cite as

Irving S. Shapiro, interviewed by James J. Bohning and Bernadette R. McNulty in Wilmington, Delaware on December 15, 1994. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0124. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/ws859g84g.

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PDF — 273 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