Oral history interview with Vladimir Haensel

Oral history interview with Vladimir Haensel

  • 1994-Nov-02

Vladimir Haensel begins this interview by discussing his family life. Haensel, though born in Germany, spent parts of his childhood in Russia, Austria, and Germany. He attended a German gymnasium, where he had only a few science courses. However, family friends encouraged his burgeoning interest in chemistry. When his father was offered a faculty position at Northwestern University, Haensel's family moved to the United States. Haensel studied engineering at Northwestern, receiving his B.S. in 1935. He earned a scholarship for graduate school at MIT, where he studied polymerization under Edwin R. Gilliland. With the help of a family friend, Vladimir Ipatieff, Haensel was offered a summer position at Universal Oil Products (UOP). After earning his M.S. in chemical engineering in 1937, Haensel took a permanent position at UOP, and helped Ipatieff to set up a high-pressure laboratory (funded by UOP) at Northwestern. During this time, Haensel also earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern, writing a thesis on the decomposition of cyclohexane. In the 1940s and 1950s, Haensel moved into research management. He was also integral in UOP's development of the Platforming process. Haensel concludes this interview with a discussion of the importance of instinct in research, the future of research and development, and his thoughts on winning the Perkin Medal.

Property Value
Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 57 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.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • September 01, 1914
  • Freiburg, Germany
  • December 16, 2002
  • Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1935 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) BS General Engineering
1939 Massachusetts Institute of Technology MS Chemical Engineering
1942 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Universal Oil Products Company

  • 1937 Chemical Engineer
  • 1942 to 1945 Chemical Engineer
  • 1945 Coordinator, Cracking Research Division
  • 1951 Director of Refining Research
  • 1960 Director of Process Research
  • 1964 to 1972 Vice President, Director of Research
  • 1972 to 1979 Vice President, Science and Technology

Ipatieff High Pressure Laboratory

  • 1939 Research Assistant

Petroleum Administration of War

  • 1945 Inspector

University of Massachusetts

  • 1980 Professor of Chemical Engineering, Amherst


Year(s) Award
1944 Chicago Junior Chamber of Commerce Award
1952 Precision Scientific Company Award in Petroleum Chemistry
1957 Professional Progress Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1965 Modern Pioneers in Creative Industry Award, National Association of Manufacturers
1967 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1967 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1971 Member, National Academy of Sciences
1973 National Medal of Science
1974 Member, National Academy of Engineering
1977 Eugene J. Houdry Award in Applied Catalysis
1984 Chancellor's Medal, University of Massachusetts
1991 Award for Chemistry in Service to Society, National Academy of Sciences
1993 Henry J. Albert Award, International Precious Metal Institute
1994 Chancellor's Outstanding Teacher Award, University of Massachusetts
1997 Charles Stark Draper Prize, National Academy of Engineering

Cite as

Vladimir Haensel, interviewed by James J. Bohning in Amherst, Massachusetts on November 2, 1994. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0115. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/ww72bc451.

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PDF — 377 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