00:00:00[Introduction to the Interview]
00:01:00BOHNING: I know you were born on September 1, 1914 in Freiburg, Germany. Could
you tell me something about your mother and father and your family background?
HAENSEL: Yes. My father was professor of public finance at the University of
Moscow for many years. My mother came from a Baltic country. My father was a
Lutheran to begin with, and my mother was Russian Orthodox. When they were
00:02:00married, they both became Russian Orthodox. They lived in Moscow. Before the
revolution, my parents had three servants and no children. After the revolution,
they had three children and no servants. [laughter]
BOHNING: You were born in Germany, correct?
HAENSEL: Yes, by virtue of the fact that this was 1914. My parents and
grandparents would go to a place near Freiburg which was called Baden-Weiler. It
was in southwestern Germany, near France, near Switzerland. It was a beautiful
countryside. My grandparents used to spend time there. It was a watering place
00:03:00from the Old Roman times and they would spend part of the summer down there.
Therefore, I was born in Freiburg, which is the closest city to Baden-Weiler. I
was born just at the outbreak of World War I. Because my father was a Russian
citizen, he was taken as a prisoner by the Germans; later on, he was released
because the Germans realized the fact that the Russians do not conscript their
teaching personnel at the University.
Shortly after I was born, we went back to Russia, which was not yet the USSR.
00:04:00The borders were closed and we had to go by way of Sweden. We stayed in Moscow
until the revolution. Our home was a beautiful apartment overlooking the Kremlin
on one side and the museum on the other side. It was a beautiful location. You
couldn't think of a nicer location; it was on the top floor of a four-story building.
As the revolution got going, they were shooting from the Kremlin toward the
communists that were moving in, and shooting back from the communists through
our window. [laughter] So after a while, Father and Mother decided they were
going to leave; this is how we went to the Crimea. That must have been 1917. I
00:05:00remember nothing of it, except what I have heard.
At that point, Father became professor at the Tauric University in the Crimea.
We were there until almost 1921. As the communists moved down and occupied more
and more of the territory during the civil war that followed, they took over.
Father was the dean of the university in Simpeferol. Father made a mistake, as
00:06:00the dean of the university, giving a speech extolling the virtues of the defunct
former regime, [laughter] and the next day the communists came. Father was
arrested and the whole family was taken back to Moscow.
There was nothing to eat. It was an armored train, and somebody was going around
threatening to kill everybody as soon as possible; something like that. It took
about a week when they were taken back to Moscow.
BOHNING: What year was that?
HAENSEL: That must have been 1921. It took a long time for the communists to
take over. Father was taken prisoner, but he was released by orders of
[Vladimir] Lenin, who said he needed all the people who knew economics; and
00:07:00father taught public finance. When Father became associated not just with the
university but also with the commissariat of finance, he wrote the first
five-year plan for the Soviet Union. That was really incredible, to be able to
do that sort of thing. It was one of the many five-year plans.
When we came back to Moscow, we picked up our apartment again, where we were
before. It was fine, except there were two more inhabitants by that time.
[laughter] Father went back to teach. He taught in two places and he also was
associated with the government in this activity, with respect to the prospective
five-year plan or financial planning, whatever it is you call it.
00:08:00We stayed in Moscow until 1929, at which time Father received an honorary degree
from the University of Munich, and he was allowed to leave the country. My
mother had some problems such that she needed to see her own doctor in Germany,
so she got permission to leave. However, they took Father's permission away
again, because they always wanted to keep a hostage. [laughter] That was
something! It's amazing what we went through, with that regime.
BOHNING: What about the children?
HAENSEL: The children always go with the parents, so there was no problem.
So they took Father's permission away, and then after quite a bit of time,
Father's permission was granted, and we left. We took nothing with us, because
we were all coming back.
00:09:00In the meantime, my cousin was living in Moscow at our apartment, and he
notified Father surreptitiously that there was a notice about the fact that he
was no longer going to be permitted to teach at the university.
You see, Father was really very outspoken, and he said you cannot teach public
finance without mentioning capitalism. [laughter] Apparently, it was too
advanced for them, and they decided against it. In fact, his successor was sent
to Siberia two years later. So Father escaped a very important fate.
When we left, Father went to teach at the London School of Economics. My older
brother went with my father, and we stayed in Germany in Dusseldorf. I had to
learn German, which I did. You know, after a while, it becomes very easy to
00:10:00learn something. At that point, it was 1929, so I was fifteen years old.
We spent a year or so in Germany, in Dusseldorf, staying with my uncle. Then
Father received an appointment to teach at the university in Graz, Austria. So
we became Austrian citizens, went there to live, and had a wonderful time. It's
a beautiful location. Have you been to Graz, by any chance?
BOHNING: No, I haven't.
HAENSEL: All of Austria is just beautiful. We were there for a year, and then
Father was invited to come and give lectures at the University of Chicago, at
Northwestern, and the University of Wisconsin. Northwestern offered him a
00:11:00permanent position. So the whole family moved here to this country in 1930. I've
lost track of whether it was 1930 or 1931, but I guess it was 1930.
I came along, obviously. My older brother went to Northwestern, my younger
brother was in grade school, and I was enrolled in Emerson Township High School.
My parents took me there. I knew no English, and they said, "You're now on your
own" (there was this Russian conversation going on). [laughter] I joined the
freshman English high school class during the summer session. By the end of
summer school, I had to read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. At that
00:12:00point, I went to the Northwestern library to get a German translation of A Tale
of Two Cities, [laughter] which was thicker compared to the normal version. I
passed the test, etc.; I got a grade of 67 on that, as I remember.
In looking back, I'm so delighted that I had parents who were smart enough to
say, "None of this bilingual business. You're going to learn the language of
this country." Which I did. They also sent me to the School of Speech at
Northwestern. I went to see this lady, and she said, "Let me hear you talk." So
I talked. She said, "You talk down here. We talk here." She said, "Keep your
mouth open." [laughter] I've been keeping my mouth open ever since. [laughter]
This is how this started. Then the following year I went to Northwestern. I was
interested in chemistry.
00:13:00BOHNING: I'd like to back up for a moment. You had your earlier education in
Russia, in Germany, and in Austria.
HAENSEL: Yes, that's right. How did I get into chemistry? Would you like to know that?
BOHNING: Yes, but I would like to know something about your educational
experiences before you came to this country, and how they played into your
developing an interest in chemistry.
HAENSEL: Before I came to this country, my experiences really were very, very
good. The school in Russia was very nice. They had a very nice teacher, and the
only problem with him was that he said, "You're left-handed; from now on, you're
going to be right-handed." [laughter] My mother was completely appalled about that.
00:14:00What did I have? I had really good training at the high school in Germany,
except of course I had to learn German much better than I had already picked up.
I think all the way through, I remember the professors and teachers that I had,
even in high school, who were extremely good. Also in college. I remember the
names of the very few I did not really care for. You probably found the same
thing. I remember the teacher in Dusseldorf; I admired him. Those people were
really good; they were dedicated teachers.
The experience in Germany was really largely to learn German and to learn some
math, etc. It was the regular procedure, as you go through high school. By that
00:15:00time I was turning fifteen. When I came to this country, I only had to learn
English plus pick up some math courses.
BOHNING: Did you have any science courses in Europe?
HAENSEL: Very little; some, but not too much. I'll tell you how I got interested
in chemistry. My parents had a great many friends. One of them was a physical
chemist or an inorganic chemist. One time when he came he said, "I want to show
you people something interesting." They brought out two glasses; he took one
00:16:00glass, poured some stuff in it and in the other, mixed the two, and then turned
it over; it had gelled. [laughter] I imagine it must have been a salicylic acid
precipitation. Everyone agreed that was a good example.
From then on I was really hooked. I felt this is for me, and I like this.
[laughter] Did you have a similar experience, Jim, or not?
BOHNING: I had a high school teacher who--
HAENSEL: --influenced you?
BOHNING: Yes. In chemistry. He was outstanding.
HAENSEL: This was really where you learned. The giants came later on. But these
earlier people were just as much giants in their own way; they elevated you,
they made you curious. I think that's the most important part that happened.
I had a little science in Austria, and some in Germany. But those are just
individual, single years, because of our moving. Then I went to Northwestern. It
00:17:00must have been 1931 when I enrolled there, because I graduated in 1935. I went
to the School of Engineering; they didn't have any chemical engineering, so I
took lots of chemistry. There were outstanding professors there. I mentioned one
of them yesterday that you remembered--Charlie [Charles D.] Hurd.
Ward V. Evans was another one. They were absolutely
Now, it is a little more difficult to find people like that. I find this not as
a fault, but as a sort of a side impression. Our teachers, nowadays, are much
more impersonal, with respect to their students. I think it's wrong. But of
course, they have huge classes also. That's one of the big problems today.
BOHNING: What was your brother majoring in? He was a year ahead of you.
00:18:00HAENSEL: My older brother was two years older, and he went into the financial area.
BOHNING: Like your father.
HAENSEL: Like my father. Except that later on in life, my brother was down in
South America working for an oil company. During the war, he was a Captain. He
always specialized in technological sales, to a large extent. He was down in
South America for a number of years.
My younger got his degree from Northwestern. Everybody got their degree from
Northwestern. My younger brother also specialized in sales. My younger brother
died about twelve years ago, something like that. My older brother is alive in
00:19:00Dallas. He has a very nice wife. He likes what he's doing; he is now eighty-two,
so he's doing very little. [laughter] So that's where we are.
BOHNING: My notes say that your degree at Northwestern was in chemical engineering.
HAENSEL: No, it wasn't chemical engineering. It was general engineering with a
major in chemistry. They didn't have any chemical engineering then. This is
where I really became more and more interested in chemistry. After that, I had a
scholarship offer from Columbia and from MIT; I was delighted that I chose MIT.
00:20:00I went there in the fall of 1935 and spent two years in chemical engineering
working for [Edwin R.] Gilliland. He was a very famous name in chemical
engineering. That is where I really met the giants, like Harold Weber and
Gilliland and Tom [Thomas K.] Sherwood. I remember Sherwood particularly for
very spectacular sort of a thing, where he plotted the negative log of the
concentration against the price of a product. The points all fall nicely on a
line. [laughter] He curved the line a little bit. On one side, you might have
radium way up and the price will be in millions of dollars, and the bottom part
you'll have copper. This is the negative log of concentration. Do you want me to
draw it for you?
BOHNING: That's all right; I think I understand it.
00:21:00HAENSEL: Okay, because I've copied some of that someplace else.
BOHNING: Well, that would be interesting to see.
HAENSEL: Okay. I'll find it a little later on.
BOHNING: All right.
HAENSEL: At Northwestern I had reasonably good grades, and I thought I was
really pretty much at the top of the class by the time I got through. This is
how I got the scholarship to MIT and Columbia.
As I said, I selected MIT. It was really fascinating. You said you interviewed
[Hoyt] Hottel. I never had anything from Hottel, but
I certainly had W. K. Lewis and Thomas Sherwood, and Gilliland, who was my
I wanted a master's degree, because I really wasn't sure if I wanted chemistry
or chemical engineering. I vacillated a great deal; I think, for obvious
reasons. At that stage, I really did not know what I wanted. I did not know
00:22:00until I started to work. [laughter] I still don't know, so I cover both. To me
in retrospect, the thing that makes it important for me here [University of
Massachusetts] is the fact that I know a great deal of chemistry that fits into
the chemical engineering concept.
Chemical engineering has become much too mathematical in treatment, and it has
taken the chemistry out of it. I have a very good friend on the faculty, Phil
[Phillip R.] Westmoreland; I will give you a copy of his presentation.
So, where were we? We got to MIT.
HAENSEL: That was the time, when I went there for graduate school, that although
00:23:00I did very well at Northwestern, when you go to another place for graduate work,
you're no longer expected to be at the top of the class. [laughter] Indeed, at
Northwestern I was the star pupil in freshman English, as long as we talked
about Chaucer, which was very Germanic in character. [laughter]
I did a thesis on polymerization with Gilliland; it was interesting in
character, but it was nothing sensational. To me, the other part was the
learning from the giants, which really was the most spectacular thing I ever
00:24:00had, education-wise. This was probably the biggest boost that MIT had during
that time. After that, I found that they became more conscious of the fact that
they could form their own companies and things like this. As a result, the place
goes downhill. Right now, it's doing very well. It has plenty of graduate
students and a pretty good faculty, but the esprit is not there.
The chairman is Bob [Robert A.] Brown. A very good man. You probably know Jimmy
00:25:00[James] Wei. They have very good faculty, so it says. They're good people to
get; some of them come in here and give beautiful lectures; but I don't see the
same strength that I've seen before. Other schools like Minnesota and Wisconsin
have taken over. Also Caltech [California
Institute of Technology], to a smaller extent, because Caltech is a combined
chemistry and chemical engineering program, which is a little difficult to put together.
00:26:00As I said, I remember the names of some of the giants, but I do not remember the
names of the mediocre ones. The one person who really gave me quite a boost was
Harold Weber. I also had a course in chemistry from James Flack Norris, another
very famous name. Again, these were giants. To me, Harold Weber was an extremely
ingenious person. He said, "You know, I went to MIT and I flunked thermodynamics
00:27:00six times. Then I had to teach it." [laughter] He was a consultant to UOP. He
was extremely good.
BOHNING: Had you thought at this point about what you were going to do beyond
MIT? Did you have any career ambitions at this point?
HAENSEL: Career ambitions? Really, I just thought that things would probably
come along. I had the chance to work in the laboratories at UOP one summer,
because of my parents. My father and [Vladimir] Ipatieff got together, being
both Russians and very close friends, and I had a chance to work at UOP in the summer.
BOHNING: While you were at Northwestern?
00:28:00HAENSEL: While I was at Northwestern. That's how the association with UOP came about.
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 1]
BOHNING: Did your father and Ipatieff know each other in Russia?
HAENSEL: Not much; apparently, they only knew of each other. Ipatieff was a
Lieutenant General in the Russian army. You've gone through his background, so I
don't need to tell you about him. After he came over
here, and when I became associated with him, he was like a second father to me.
Number one, because he could speak Russian, [laughter] and I could speak Russian
with him. Number two, because of the family association. As I said, he was like
a second father. I've known him until the day that he died.
BOHNING: So he visited your home?
00:29:00HAENSEL: He visited our home; he visited really more with my parents. I got
married in 1939. I don't know how my wife stood all the Russian talk. My parents
and we would drive down to the Pearson Hotel in Chicago, right next to the water
tower. We would have something to eat there, and we had lots of good
conversation; my wife could not participate. But somehow she tolerated it; she
was a very tolerant person. [laughter]
During these visits the conversations with Ipatieff were largely discussions of
00:30:00the past life in Russia and the life here. I think that Ipatieff assimilated
himself extremely well, because he had his work.
Every summer Ipatieff would take one or two months off to go fishing up in
Wisconsin. He loved it. He found a place full of birch trees that was just like
home. Russia is very famous for its birch trees. He would spend his time
00:31:00thinking; he was a great thinker. When he came to work at UOP, he had an office.
We had this whole building that we're going to try to dedicate as a shrine
[laughter] of catalytic knowledge or something like that.
When I got through MIT, I had an interview with Shell. A very interesting man
came in and said, "We're looking for chemical engineers, which you are. You've
got a master's degree." I said, "Yes, I will be getting it." He asked me a bunch
of questions, which were not very difficult. But there's one question, he said,
"How much do you expect to earn in fifteen years?" I said, "Fifteen thousand
00:32:00dollars." He said, "You'll never make it." [laughter] Later I started to pay
fifteen thousand dollars in taxes. [laughter]
I got an offer from Shell. I went back to UOP and said, "I would really like to
work for you." They said, "We would like you to work for us." They said, "We'll
give you one hundred and forty dollars a month." I said, "I got an offer from
Shell for one hundred and fifty dollars." It was a lot of money at that time.
When I was at MIT, we used to walk across the bridge and go to the Café de
Paris on the other side in Boston, and for forty-five cents you could have
dinner. [laughter] Those were the days.
00:33:00But I said, "Fine, I'd love to," because I wanted to work for Ipatieff. That was
really the basis for it. That's where the association with Ipatieff came in.
Shortly thereafter, it must have been 1939 or thereabouts, Ipatieff was told by
UOP that, as he would like, he was to start the high-pressure laboratory at
Northwestern. They said that they would designate me to set up the laboratory,
while I could get my Ph.D. at Northwestern, with Ipatieff. Boy, I said, "Yes."
[laughter] That's a deal you can't refuse, right? I was getting paid by UOP all
the time. That is how I spent the next three years.
BOHNING: Why did UOP set the lab up at Northwestern?
00:34:00HAENSEL: The connection with Northwestern for Ipatieff came as follows. Ipatieff
would not have been able to go to the States without a university association.
That's how he came here. Ward V. Evans is famous for his Grignard reactions.
He's the one who made all the arrangements. You see, Ipatieff was solicited by
UOP to come here, through Gus [Gustave] Egloff. (You may have heard of him too,
I suppose, old Gus.) I admired Gus a great deal, because Gus was asked by Hiram
Halle (the president of UOP) to go to Europe and find somebody world renowned in
00:35:00catalysis. Gus went over there. This was Hiram Halle, financier, having heard
that catalysis is the coming word; he's the one that sent Egloff. Nowadays, we
have too much watching of the bottom line. Those people were thinking ahead.
This is a financier who really said, "I think I smell something about catalysis
[laughter] and I'd get the best material I can get." Get the very best; always
shoot for the best.
That is what turned out, that Gus went over to Germany. At that time Ipatieff
has been going to the West, based on Lenin's orders to bring back as much
00:36:00technology he possibly could. He went there eighteen times; the nineteenth time
he took his wife with him and he never came back. [laughter] Yes, it's an
amazing story of these people, isn't it? [laughter]
HAENSEL: It's incredible what they went through, all the revolutions and all the
other things. Somehow they survived, and they rose to the occasion.
Ipatieff's name was very well known already. If it weren't for the fact that so
many of his publications and his work were not published in English or German,
but largely in Russian, he would have gotten a Nobel Prize for his work in high
pressure and in chemical reactions. As he said, "Nobel gave me praises but no
prizes," [laughter] or something like that. He worked for Nobel; he had a
00:37:00consulting arrangement with Nobel in Sweden.
My relationship with Ipatieff was, number one, a common language, so that we
could communicate very well. It was difficult for him. He came over here at the
age of sixty-five, but he really was instrumental in not only putting UOP on the
map as a great catalytic center, but also in developing processes. The catalyst
that he developed, for example, which was known as solid phosphoric acid
catalyst (SPA), is still being used very extensively for all sorts of purposes,
such as the alkylation of aromatics, for example.
00:38:00So he really was the guiding genius at UOP, and he did extremely well, despite
the fact that communications were difficult.
BOHNING: Did UOP fund everything at Northwestern?
HAENSEL: Yes. UOP funded my salary at one hundred and fifty dollars. [laughter]
They might have given me a little raise in the meantime. Of course, they
supported the laboratory, which was really very, very good. It was a marvelous
arrangement, because, as I said, he had to be associated with the university in
order to come over here. So that's how Ward V. Evans engineered the whole
business to get him over here. It's an amazing feat, isn't it?
BOHNING: Yes, yes. You were talking about foresight on Halle's part, but here
you have Evans doing the same thing.
00:39:00HAENSEL: Yes, Evans had the same idea. Exactly. Evans was really instrumental in
bringing him there. There were strange moments. Evans was a great football fan,
so he invited Ipatieff to go to the football game, Northwestern against
Minnesota. That was probably a good game. [laughter] Evans said, "Would you
come?" He said, "No, I've seen a football game once." [laughter] Sometimes, I
think he's right. [laughter]
For him to really become so well known in his work in this country, after the
age sixty-five, is very unusual. Most of our famous chemists are natives. There
are very few who have come over, but not chemists. [Albert] Einstein came over
here, if you realize.
00:40:00Incidentally, have you seen the statue of Einstein in Washington?
BOHNING: Oh, yes.
HAENSEL: Isn't that amazing?
BOHNING: Yes, it is. I saw it in August at the ACS meeting, went I went to a
reception over there.
HAENSEL: Oh yes, at the Academy?
HAENSEL: You know, it's magnificent!
BOHNING: Yes, it's quite something! I had seen pictures of it, but that was the
first time I saw the real thing.
HAENSEL: It's fun to visit it again. When we go there, it is always fun. It's a
beautiful spot for it.
BOHNING: One of the other people who I understand that was brought over around
the same time was Tropsch of the Fischer-Tropsch reaction.
HAENSEL: Hans Tropsch, that's right. Hans Tropsch came over, but Hans Tropsch
did not last too long because he had cancer, and he went back to Germany to die.
I also met him at UOP. When you talk to them, you say, "What is the thing that
00:41:00you really need to know in connection with catalysis?" Both Ipatieff and Tropsch
said, "You've got to know an awful lot of chemistry; you've got to understand
the chemistry. This is they way I feel about chemical engineering. You've got to
know an awful lot of chemistry to be able to put the two things together.
They're going to bring to you that little booklet that Phil Westmoreland has on
"Putting the chem back into chemical engineering," and we'd like you to have that.
BOHNING: That would be fine; thank you.
HAENSEL: Good. So, what else? Where did I leave off?
BOHNING: Well, you've gone to Northwestern, and UOP is paying you to get your
Ph.D. and help Ipatieff set up the high pressure lab.
HAENSEL: Exactly, which I did.
BOHNING: What did you work on for your thesis?
HAENSEL: For my thesis, I worked on the decomposition of cyclohexane. It was
nothing sensational, but it was interesting. I don't remember whether we had a
00:42:00publication on that or not. We also worked on other things, but that started
later on with UOP.
If I may go ahead just a little bit, to both Ipatieff and to me, if you do
something unusual, which is completely contrary to the previous concepts, you
really get excited about it. It was really very simple. We had a simple
compound, like 2,2-dimethylbutane, and when you react it with hydrogen in the
presence of nickel catalyst you form exclusively neopentane and methane.
Ipatieff just loved the nickel catalyst, because he developed it; nickel and
00:43:00kieselguhr was his favorite catalyst. NiK, he called it. This reaction is
completely irreversible. Now, the interesting about it is that it's so neat, and
such a clean thing. Ipatieff was never a man for mechanisms. He said,
"Mechanisms are cheap. They're a dime a dozen." [laughter] In a way, I think
Actually Herman Pines, who worked with Ipatieff for many years, was always a
mechanism person. Ipatieff had a little disdain for mechanisms, because you
could claim that all sorts of things were happening. But to Ipatieff, the fact
00:44:00that it occurs was really the most interesting part.
Then we went one step further. You can make 2,2,3-trimethylpentane by alkylation
and polymerization. When you react that with hydrogen, again, nickel on
kieselguhr, you form triptane, plus methane, of course. That is the highest
octane number paraffin that you can have. There are only two that are really
outstanding. One of them, in the aromatics series (I mentioned it yesterday), is
00:45:00mesitylene. This is about 130+, and triptane is also about 130 or thereabouts.
But this is a nice paraffin compared to the aromatic, which you might have some
To Ipatieff, this was just great. One of the papers in this bibliography is
about the dimethylation reaction. Somehow it hit what
he was thinking about. Me, too. Fascinating. Why does it happen? How does it
happen? There are all sorts of theories as to why specifically it absorbs here.
In a way, it just seems logical, in retrospect, that that's the way it should go
because it was the weaker bond right there that you're breaking. But for
Ipatieff, he didn't give a damn about the mechanism. [laughter] He said, "I want
results!" That's what he wanted.
00:46:00BOHNING: This may be too simple, but would you classify his techniques as mostly trial-and-error?
HAENSEL: No, not trial-and-error ever! He always had a nose for chemistry. That
was really it. Amazing! In all of the things that he did, he always had a
feeling that it would work. After this triptane work was originally published,
it came to be known that two people from Northwestern, or from UOP (for that
part) made triptane, which was a super gas that would help with aviation
gasoline and was necessary for the war effort. This
never got to the war effort. [laughter] It was publicized that it could. It
probably needed a little help, with respect to getting going. There was despair,
and people said, "We need something that will really fly our airplanes."
00:47:00It would have. But at the same time, you could take this material
(2,2,3-trimethylpentane), which was not far from it anyway, and you don't have
to lose one group. [laughter] But it was a
boost to the spirit, that here we have Avgas. They had all sorts of publicity
about it; it never got that far. [laughter]
BOHNING: So you're saying Ipatieff had an instinct.
HAENSEL: Exactly. He had a gut feeling, an instinct, and he was usually right.
But he did do an awful lot of thinking. I saw in the paper, a picture of
00:48:00Ipatieff during a snowstorm, walking down Lakeshore Drive. Can you imagine this
guy [laughter] bundled up and walking in the snow? It said, "The Thinker."
That's really what he was. He had an incredible gut feeling with respect to
chemical reactions! To me, it was amazing. At the same time, I never had any
word from him of discouragement or anything else, despite the fact that he had
gone through terrible personal tragedies in his life, with his sons.
His granddaughter visited us here in this country from St. Petersburg. I went
back there and visited her when we celebrated the 125th anniversary of
00:49:00Ipatieff's birth, which was a year ago in St. Petersburg. She just wanted to
visit the graveside of her grandparents.
His wife felt very badly about the fact they lost one son in Africa. When
Ipatieff defected, they took him out of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
although they reinstated him later on. When I was there a year-and-a-half ago,
they told me there were only three major people in Russian chemistry. One was
[Dimitri] Mendeleev, then Ipatieff, and the third one--I can't think of his name
right now. Only three people, they said, were big names in Russian chemical history.
00:50:00BOHNING: To be classified in the same mold as Mendeleev is quite an accomplishment.
HAENSEL: Exactly! Yes. Ipatieff admired Mendeleev, because he created an order.
You see, Ipatieff was an extremely orderly person. Remember, we talked about
Jerry McAfee. It's the same sort of order in thinking that Jerry has, and that
Ipatieff had, which I don't have. [laughter]
BOHNING: Have you ever met anybody else that you would classify as having the
same instinct that Ipatieff had? The same nose for chemistry?
HAENSEL: The same nose for chemistry? Not really. I think that Hans Tropsch had
some of that. But I saw very little of him, because he went back to Germany to
00:51:00die, and that was the end of Hans Tropsch. I really don't know of anybody else.
I do feel, for example, that some of my professors at Northwestern, like Ward V.
Evans, had a nose for it. Ward V. Evans was not only a football fan but a
wonderful human being and a very good chemist in his area. The others were
also very, very impressive! There was Bob [Robert K.] Summerbell. You probably
remember his name.
BOHNING: Yes. Charlie Hurd talked about him.
HAENSEL: Fred Basolo is another of the new breeds. Have you ever talked to John Turkevich?
00:52:00HAENSEL: Do you remember Hugh Taylor?
BOHNING: Oh, yes. I had his brother H. A. Taylor for physical chemistry at NYU.
HAENSEL: I think that Hugh Taylor was really an outstanding person; there was no
question about it. But the people that I admire are like [Glenn] Seaborg. These
are the people that I really regard as the greats. I think Linus Pauling really
was a tremendous person, a tremendous chemist, but I think he went overboard
[laughter] in some respects. It was a fact. The guy who I really admired more
than anything else was Paul Emmett. Paul Emmett was probably one of the best
catalytic chemists. I would rank him close to Ipatieff, in his knowledge and his
00:53:00understanding, and his being such a wonderful person. He was certainly the guy!
00:54:00So those are the biggies; those are the giants.
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 2]
BOHNING: You finished your Ph.D. in 1941?
HAENSEL: Yes. Then I went back to UOP.
BOHNING: I'm a little uncertain; the high-pressure lab continued at
Northwestern, but did Ipatieff go to the UOP laboratory?
HAENSEL: Oh, yes. He was both places. He spent three days at UOP and two days at
Northwestern. The incredible part about him, to me (it's just an interesting
00:55:00sideline, perhaps) is how human the guy was. He came in the lab one time and
said, "You know, it is time for you to make mountain ash brandy." I said,
"Really?" [laughter] He said, "Do you know any place around here where that tree
grows?" I talked to my wife Mary and said, "You know, there is a mountain ash
tree right here in the neighborhood, a huge tree. All we have to do is to gather
the berries and give them to Ipatieff." It's just amazing; here we come in the
lab and the professor said we're going to make some brandy. [laughter] It was
We went over to this place which both Mary and I thought had a beautiful tree.
We went to the door and told this man that we were making a chemical experiment,
00:56:00which was true, and could we pick some of his berries? He was so pleased about
pushing the frontiers of science [laughter] that he even brought us a ladder. So
we were out there climbing, and collected all the fruit. Our reward was a number
of bottles of beautiful mountain ash brandy that Ipatieff made, on his own. He
did it at home. I don't know whether he did it at the lab or at home; I didn't
care about that part. [laughter] This is to show you the human side of a person.
There is one thing that bothered me afterwards. I went over to Seagrams and said
to them, "You know, one of the great things that a company could do is to put
out a new kind of brandy. What about a mountain ash brandy?" The guy said, "It
00:57:00won't ever sell." Just like that. This is one of our problems. We look at the
bottom line. If we could only get away from that.
Did you ever interview Lou [Louis H.] Sarett?
BOHNING: We haven't, but he has been interviewed by someone else.
HAENSEL: He's one of my idols. His father was a professor of poetry at
Northwestern, and I've known him for a number of years through the Academy. He
had a very good write-up in the Proceedings of the Academy dealing with the
changing times in industrial problems, which says that we have gone away from
the people who manage research and who had a technical background, to people who
watch the bottom line. That started about thirty-five
00:58:00years ago or something like that. That is what really hit us very hard; it hit
us as an industrial empire.
When I look at the number of people who are elected to the Academy from various
places like IBM and Bell Labs; that number is reducing. Why? Because, for
example, Bell Labs has now sent some of their talent to work in their
subsidiaries, which are really the producing end. That's the kiss of death. This
is something I'm going to write up for Chemtech one of these days, because to me
it is really a very critical point.
Do you agree with that? That we're going downhill in this sort of thing?
BOHNING: Yes. Let me share a story that somebody at Dow told me, who was a
00:59:00former research director. He said that when Willard Dow ran the company, they
had one cash register. But when
business people took over and each unit had a cash register, that's when things
started to go downhill. Because with one cash register, one group can carry
another group that's still developing.
BOHNING: While one group's producing, they carry the group that's developing
HAENSEL: Sure. That's right.
BOHNING: But when you have multiple cash registers, that doesn't happen.
HAENSEL: You can pinpoint, and you can kill the one that's just developing.
HAENSEL: That's right; that's a very good point.
BOHNING: I've always kept that in mind, and it's often true. That's part of what
is on this agenda list that I sent to you that I'd like to discuss--your
experiences with research management. But before we do that, could we work
01:00:00through the events around the platforming development. I know you've written
about this in several places and other people have described it.
HAENSEL: Okay, we can go right to it.
BOHNING: I've pulled a number of quotes out of the new UOP history.
HAENSEL: I haven't looked at the new one; I've looked at the old one.
I like the old one better.
BOHNING: You are quoted extensively in the new one.
HAENSEL: That's good.
BOHNING: There are a couple of things that I read in there that I wanted to
bounce off of you.
HAENSEL: Okay. Do you want to bounce off first or do you want me to tell you how
it came about?
BOHNING: I think we should work that through first.
HAENSEL: How it came about? Okay. It was really very, very simple. It went
something like this.
I was assigned to do work in catalytic reforming. The thing that bugged me was
01:01:00the following, and it still bugs me that things like that happened. Catalytic
reforming really means taking a fraction boiling at 40 or 50C up to a 250C
straight from crude oil, with an octane number of about 35, and produce a new
gasoline out of it which has at least an 80 percent yield and 80 octane number.
In other words, 80/80. That was the aim.
The thing that people went after was modifying the old work horses, like
chromium and aluminum catalysts. People had known about them for years, and they
were just modifying them. There was no ingenuity associated with it. I thought,
01:02:00"My gosh! What are we really looking for? What do we have in there?" We knew
that we had napthenes, which are now called cycloalkanes.
Let's say there is 45 percent napthenes, 35 percent paraffins, and 10 percent
aromatics; that is the makeup of a midcontinent gasoline as it comes out of the
ground. Okay, so what can you do with this? The combined paraffins, if you're
able to separate them, will have a negative octane number, because it is just
entirely too low. With the napthenes or cycloalkanes, if you were to separate
them, it would be something in the order of maybe 50 or 60 octane number,
01:03:00something like that. Of course, the aromatics are 100+.
So what do you do with the material? I thought, "Why aren't we able to look at
these materials and see what we can do, with respect to converting them into
something more exciting than just going through the same old catalysts that
we've used, and getting 80/80. I don't want an 80 percent yield, 80 octane
number; I want 100 octane number. [laughter] Why not? Always go for the best."
That was my motto. I think I got it ingrained into me, through all the MITs and
Ipatieffs, to do your best. Do much better than anybody else is doing.
[laughter] I don't mean competitively; I mean just for your own chemical soul,
if you want to call it that. Are you with me?
HAENSEL: Okay. What do we have there? For napthenes, we have some
01:04:00cycloparaffins. We have all these rascals.
HAENSEL: That goes on--long chains, short chains, boiling all up to 100C. Okay?
Now, what can you do? I did know from the literature, from way back when, work
that was done, I think, in Russia--on using a 5 percent platinum on charcoal
catalyst as an analytical tool, to be able to discern the differences in the
Baku oil field products, between C6 ring compounds and C5 ring compounds. I
01:05:00thought, "Now, that is interesting." At that time, I was very much impressed by
the fact that aluminum was an extremely interesting material. How I got into
that, I really do not recall properly. But I do know that one of the early
experiments we did was to take this mixture of materials and dehydrogenate them
in the presence of a 5 percent platinum--maybe it was on carbon, I'm not
sure--catalyst, and the result was a disaster. The octane number went up from
about 35 to about 45. [laughter]
I thought that was very strange. What is it that was doing it? Well, remember
that there are these straight-chain paraffins plus a few aromatics. What else do
01:06:00we have in there? We have sulfur compounds in there. So I thought to myself, "My
gosh! We'd better set up a little desulfurization unit."
I had one assistant working with me. One side of the lab, we were desulfurizing
the material; on the other side, we were processing it over this very sensitive
platinum catalyst. We did this largely because we were so impressed with the
fact that platinum could be poisoned by sulfur.
You get that ingrained into you. The worst thing that could happen to you. My
gosh! It's obvious. Let me erase this from the board. (It's so nice to have a
blackboard, I just got this one here. I had another one, a synthetic one, and I
got rid of it.) [laughter]
Anyway. We had a good size lab. One side was devoted to desulfurization; the
01:07:00other side was processing, using platinum catalysts that we made up. It was not
too difficult to make them. It's fairly easy. Invariably, we had to desulfurize
before we processed it, because we knew that platinum was being poisoned very
easily. What happens is
Pt + H2S PtxSy + H2
That was the end of this catalyst, obviously. So we'd desulfurize and desulfurize.
One time, in the middle of this thing, we ran out of desulfurized stock. We were
still making only about 45, 50, 55 octane number, which was interesting. So, we
01:08:00plugged in the undesulfurized material because we just didn't have that much
stock. When we looked at it, sure enough, the catalyst died. Died abruptly! Was
killed. Kaputt, as the Germans say. [laughter] What did we do?
I had a gut feeling (this is where you talk about gut feelings) that, after all,
if that's what's happening, then maybe the reaction is reversible. So why not
increase the hydrogen partial pressure? That was really the beginning of
platforming, to recognize the fact that you could overcome some of these
problems. It was not that we couldn't desulfurize, it was the fact that,
somehow, we got a handle on the ability of the catalyst to perform. Only later
01:09:00on did I really realize the fact that I could apply that same thing to many
other parts of what eventually became the platforming process; we'll come to that.
We had to make up these catalysts. How do you start? How do you do it?
We started out with aluminum nitrate as a substrate for making the alumina. You
01:10:00precipitate this with ammonia, and you form this gob of precipitate:
Al(NO3)3 H2O + NH4OH Al(OH)3 + xH2O + NH4OH
Now this is where some serendipity comes into it. As you precipitate this,
you're left behind with a whole gob of ammonia nitrate, which stank up the
place. [laughter] It was in those days, even then, an environmental hazard. [laughter]
So I set up a little preparation unit, and we started out with aluminum
01:11:00chloride. It was a very nice material. We made exactly the same thing; we made a
precipitate, and everything was fine. I looked at it, and I said, "Now this is
very strange." Any time that I made a catalyst out of aluminum chloride before,
we got a higher octane number. Not much, maybe five points. But it was visible.
We were now in the 65 to 70 range. You see, we're coming right along into the
higher octane numbers.
Sure enough, this gave us a higher octane number. I thought, "Now, why is that?
What is there that is different from the aluminum nitrate outside of the stink
we were getting [laughter] from the nitrate?" We actually had a little tiny
01:12:00pilot plant, and we could test the exhaust gas from the unit. Sure enough, when
we looked at the gas coming off the unit, there was acidity in it. In other
words, we were getting some HCl coming off.
AlCl3xH2O + NH4OH Al(OH)3 + xH2O + NH4Cl + HCl
That told us that here was something special. We were getting octane numbers
this time, about a ten-octane-number-higher product, and still a very good
yield. The yield was out of the 80/80 business. That was really the beginning of
the understanding, that the element we needed was a bifunctional catalyst. That
was really it. Did I make myself clear?
BOHNING: Yes, absolutely.
HAENSEL: To a certain extent, what it really says is, what do I have to go on? I
have to go on not just serendipity, but I have to be in the lab, all the time,
01:13:00to smell the products. I remember Ipatieff was going in the lab; he would look
at this test tube or something, and he would smell the product. That was the
first analysis. [laughter] What the giants really taught me, mostly Ipatieff, in
that respect, is how to examine what you're getting. Don't sit in the office and
let some flunky (as we called them at that time) bring the stuff to you. No, you
go right in there; you work with it. This is what really taught me. In later
life, when I became vice president and director of research, I always spent two
hours a day going through the laboratories, going through the pilot plants,
talking to the people who work on the front. That is what made the difference.
This is how I learned my chemistry. [laughter]
01:14:00I was absolutely delighted with this, because all of a sudden, we not only had
higher octane numbers, we must have been doing some different chemistry. What
happened was that we were not just dehydrogenating, because there wasn't enough
there, but we were also converting all of the five-membered rings. We had this
potful of paraffins to work with. What did they do? Somehow, they were
dehydrocyclizing to make aromatics.
I showed Ipatieff. I said, "Look at it!" When I started doing this work, he did
01:15:00not in any way interfere. That was his motto. He said, "You've got to get
someplace on your own. I'm not going to bother you, but I'd like to know what
you're doing." It was fascinating to see his eyes sparkle when one of his
students got something.
The most important part that came out of this, was the fact not just that we had
come up with this whole business, but the fact that we were using a catalyst
that nobody thought of using. Everybody was still working on chromium on
alumina, and molybdenum on alumina, modifying them. We gained an awful lot of
time. Nobody would use it. In fact, there was one guy within our own company who
was most objecting to our using platinum. Who do you think it was? It was not
01:16:00Mr. [David S.] Harris, who was the head of the company at that time; he was all
in favor of it. It was the financial person. [laughter] He was a financial officer.
BOHNING: That's just what we were saying earlier. [laughter]
HAENSEL: That's right. I've forgotten his name. But, platinum--my gosh, can we
afford it? [laughter] Sounds like "Lucky Alva" all over again, something like
that. Really, this is where you separate the men
from the boys. I realized I was really the man at that point; I've got
something. So we went ahead.
The man who I really admired very, very much, was Larry [Clarence G.] Gerhold.
Larry was the director of the laboratories, and he would come around. He said,
"Val, you know what I think you might to do at this point? As much as I admire
your work, which you have done beautifully, we've got to cut down on the
01:17:00platinum concentration." I said, "I'm working on that." He said, "Well, work a
little bit harder." [laughter] Which I did.
At that point I did something else, which was an obvious thing, and I talked to
a lot of the people around. I said, "Now, after all, we have the whole periodic
table to choose from, but as far as the halogens are concerned, there's only
fluorine and chlorine, and fluorine might do very well." In fact, I put the
fluorine in, and it gave a very, very high octane number. But, the yield was
lousy, because the fluorine, as an additive to the catalyst, was much too acidic
Just in class the other day, someone asked, "What about bromine and iodine?" I
said, "Look at the periodic table." You can see that these are much weaker
halogens. Which they are. The periodic table was the most wonderful thing in the
At that point, the connection with Gerhold was extremely important, because he
not only supported the work, he was very much interested in the work, and did an
awful lot for me in that respect. He protected me from all the people who said,
"Platinum? Bah!" He also had vision.
He had a master's degree from the University of Illinois in chemical
engineering. Actually, a wonderful guy. I called him the other day to come to
this celebration. He said, "You know, I'm now four
01:19:00score and seven years." [laughter] "I don't know whether I can make it, and I'd
like to do it. It would be nice if somebody could come with me." At that point,
it would have been very, very difficult. I want to send him all these things,
and send him a copy of the article in Chemtech. Have
you seen it?
BOHNING: Yes, I have a copy. That's the one from September.
HAENSEL: Yes, that's right.
Larry was, to me, a great friend, a great advisor, and a great pusher in
important places. To me, he was the guy who was close to the top management. He
was advisor to Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris was one of the best presidents we ever
had. Larry is the one who would go to Mr. Harris--nobody ever called him Dave, I
01:20:00guess. David Harris was a marvelous guy. Larry said, "Mr. Harris, you know, I
think we're getting someplace here. How would you like to put some more manpower
in this business?" Before long, when things really got hot, half of the staff at
UOP was working in platforming. That is incredible! Try and think of it now, in
an industrial environment; you'd never get anyplace! [laughter] "What about my
project? That's more important!" This was the ruling from headquarters, who
understood the potential for these things.
Larry was an extremely smart guy; he still is a very smart guy, at four score
01:21:00and seven. But he came around and said, "You know Val, I'm worried about one thing."
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 3]
HAENSEL: He said, "You know what I was thinking about? If I considered Mr.
Harris," who was an extremely kind person, "and if I analyzed him, what is he
worried about? What worries him?" The only thing we could really think of
jointly, was what if we lose this marvelous process to somebody else? What if
somebody else gets in on the act? I said, "I don't really think so, because
nobody wants to use platinum; that's just too expensive." [laughter] He said,
"No, you'd be surprised. Let's just worry about it. Has anybody left the company
to go someplace else?" I said, "Yes, we had one guy who left the company." He
said, "That's what I need." [laughter]
So he went to Mr. Harris. He said, "You know, this is serious business. We don't
01:22:00want to lose it; this is our baby." So we doubled our effort in the whole thing.
As I said, half of the staff was really working in this area. First of all, we
had to make the catalyst on a larger scale. You can't just go into a filling machine.
Have you seen the catalyst?
HAENSEL: Take a look at this. This came from UOP. Beautiful, isn't it?
BOHNING: It sure is.
HAENSEL: The reason it works up to the top [in the bottle] is because it's very
dry in there. This is the platinum alumina catalyst; UOP has been supplying me
with this for various purposes. I have a whole bottle of alumina over there,
01:23:00around the corner; it is perfectly white. This is probably about 40.4 percent
platinum on the catalyst.
So that was the approach to Mr. Harris--has anybody left the company? [laughter]
I said, "Yes, he really did. The guy left and went to some other company." He
said, "That is not good. We've got to just get going."
Then the question was, how do you announce this process? One of the vice
presidents of the company was a man by the name of Ed [Edwin] Nelson. Ed went
down to a meeting of the Western Petroleum Refiners Association (WPRA meeting),
something like that. I did not go; I had no reason for it. Ed Nelson gave sort
of a general talk on cracking reactions and catalytic cracking, which was just
01:24:00coming in. Then he said, "I just want you to learn something else. We have a new
process and we call it platforming."
The name platforming did not come from the public relations people. We had a
very nice public relations office that worked on everything, including names.
The guy who coined the name was Horner Eby, who worked with me for a number of
years. Horner Eby said, "Look, what did we do here? We used platinum, and we
elevated the octane number. Don't we really reform the gasoline? So let's
combine that to platforming." That's how the name came up. [laughter] The guys
in public relations were mad as hell, because they didn't come up with this
So this is how it started. I think they broke all the records, with respect to
01:25:00trying to make the right amount of catalyst. We used to pill these damn
catalysts (pardon the word), and to pelletize it and everything else; it was an
absolute pain! Besides, it's such an abrasive material.
This catalyst [referring to sample bottle] came as a result of work by James
Hoekstra, a graduate of a parochial school in Michigan. (I can't think of the
name of it right now.) Jim Hoekstra was a guy who worked for me. I went to him
and said, "Jim, it would be awfully nice to be able to make this catalyst by
some method other than pilling. Pilling is such an old thing. That's how you
make aspirin! You don't want to make aspirin pills. That's what you want for
your headaches. [laughter] How could you make a catalyst which did not require
01:26:00all the pilling?"
Jim Hoekstra, with a degree from a parochial college in Michigan, as I said, was
part of the group. A wonderful guy! He said, "You know what I think? We
precipitate aluminum hydroxide. It would be nice if we could sort of make
droplets of it, wouldn't it?" I said, "Well, you'd better think hard about how
you're going to do it, because I certainly don't know." [laughter] He came back
within a couple of days and said, "You know what we need?" We already had the
idea of something being dropped in spheres. If you drop them through oil, all
you get is mush; this dark terrible stuff is just collecting on the bottom. He
01:27:00said, "I have an idea. What if I were able to premix, in the cold, the aluminum
sol." (You can make a sol from aluminum metal, which we did later on.) This came
about the same time, making the aluminum sol, which is deficient in chlorine. If
you were to drop this material and mix it in with something, it would set within
this sphere, as it was going through the hot part. It's very clever, isn't it?
It's damn ingenious, really.
It wasn't any Ph.D. who was doing this. This is a guy who had the practical
experience and somehow, was just trying to think. He said, "We're going to use
HMT" (hexamethylene tetramine). I said, "What are you going to use that for?" He
said, "Because HMT decomposes." After all, what is HMT but a product of
01:28:00interaction of NH3 and HCHO. Then you get this structure of HMT, which I can
never write out properly. I'll have to learn how to do this before I give this
HMT decomposes on heating because it is a product of these two materials. But it
stinks something awful when it decomposes. (Boy, that was something we had to
worry about later on.) So he set up this little tower, with hot oil inside of
the tower and droplets. You take a mixture of alumina sol, deficient in
chloride, obviously, and HMT; you drop them into this oil, and as it goes
01:29:00through, the HMT decomposes inside of the droplets. Anytime you do it outside,
everything goes to mush! So that was really the key. It was just amazing! It
does not take a Ph.D. to do this; it just takes damn smart thinking, to see what
you can do under duress. So he set this up, and beautiful spheres came out at
the bottom. You could take them, even though they're still gelled, and bounce
them on the floor.
You've seen the vitamin E spheres that you can buy in the store. That's just
what a bottle of it looks like. Beautiful spheres! So he really had a wonderful
time with that. This got around all the pilling that we had to do. The first
01:30:00catalyst that went into Old Dutch [Refining Company], as I remember, was not the
spherical catalyst. It was a pill catalyst, because we just couldn't set up fast
enough for this new thing.
This was really the result of a guy who graduated from a little parochial
college in Michigan, who had an idea. The reason he had an idea was because he
was given a chance to have ideas. None of this business of big chiefs, sitting
in their offices and writing out little orders. "Will you do this next? Let me
know what the result is." We had a working organization, where everybody was on
the firing line. [laughter] That was really it. That is really what made UOP great.
Of course, the tremendous cooperation, at that point, that we had, particularly
through Larry Gerhold. He got all the engineering staff excited about it. There
were some who said, "Oh, come on, we're not going to be using platinum as a
01:31:00catalyst." But you've got to fight these battles. Internally. The hardest sell,
as somebody said, is within your own company, which is, as you well know, very
true. But despite all this, this thing came through later on to make this
catalyst, that you see here.
BOHNING: During this development, what role did Ipatieff play?
HAENSEL: Very little. Ipatieff died in 1952. We started the work in platforming
in 1949. But he also knew about the work that I was doing before then with the
catalyst, and he was thrilled. But he was so careful, really, to be interested,
but not directing. He said, "This is your baby." I admire that part very much
because he might simply have said, "Look, I want to participate in it." He did
01:32:00not. He was very, very astute. "You're doing it; more power to you."
BOHNING: In this regard, I know of instances where research directors insisted
that their name be on every paper and every patent that went out.
HAENSEL: In fact, it would be very bad if their names were on every patent,
because that's illegal. Unless you participate actively in the creation of a
patent, that's it!
BOHNING: Well, they may have been, as you say, going into the lab.
HAENSEL: The early papers that Ipatieff and I had, look at the list. My name
comes first on the demethylation thing, because I was the one who was doing the
work in it. He participated very actively in it, but he wanted to push me. As I
said, he was like a second father to me. I was one of his prodigies, [laughter]
01:33:00if you want to call it that. You see, when platforming came in 1949, I had been
born in 1914.
BOHNING: You were very young then.
HAENSEL: Very young. That's right, yes. The demethylation and all those other
things that we talked about before, they came much earlier. That was really
because I had the best training, and I was just absolutely enamored of this
stuff that I was doing. Sometimes I would get home and Mary would say, "Are you
still there, or are you here?" [laughter] My elder daughter Maryanne would say,
"You know, Daddy, I'm Maryanne, I'm not Kathy." [laughter] That hurts.
BOHNING: Were there any times during the development of platforming that you
01:34:00HAENSEL: I'll tell you when I was discouraged--when Old Dutch first started up.
You read of some of that.
HAENSEL: The feeling was that here we had spent all this time and all this
money, and all of the sudden the guy who was in charge of the unit pulled the
switch; the reactor was overheating. "Look what I've done here!" [laughter] It
was my doing, you see. There are two Nebeck brothers.
Howard Nebeck was one of them, and he was there at the time when this unit, the
Old Dutch unit, started up. It's only fifteen hundred barrels. They were luck to
find somebody who would buy the process. Actually, we financed a lot of the
01:35:00investment in it, to make it a showplace.
It was desperate. The thing shut down. I went back to have a drink in the
restaurant or in the hotel. Howard Nebeck said, "Excuse me, but I'm going to do
a little thinking about this." He went back upstairs and redesigned the shell of
the unit, because we had hydrogen leaking into the outer shell. It was a
carbon-sealed outer thing; therefore you had to protect it, where there was
obvious leakage in there. We thought we'd protect it enough by the presence of
the catalyst in there, but it was just a matter of time when it would leak out.
He redesigned it. Within a week or two weeks at the most, he had it operating
01:36:00again. From then on it ran so successfully that the owner, Elmer Sondregger,
started scouring the neighborhood for more fuel to be put into the unit. One
thing that he failed to look at was that some people had cleaning fluid,
[laughter] even the gasoline that was being used for cleaning. That unit really
took off, because you can imagine the excess chloride pushing this reaction to a
fare-thee-well. That was one of the things that was bad about it.
Did I tell you about something that happened before the unit started up? I wrote
about it somewhere. Mr. Harris called me and said,
"Val, I hear that you are going up there to the startup." I said, "Yes, Mr.
01:37:00Harris." He said, "I'm looking forward to hearing about it, but I will go out
there later on. In the meantime, would you make up a sample of catalyst?"
I said, "Now, that's strange." I didn't want to say, "Mr. Harris, we got a
couple of tons [laughter] of this catalyst." I said, "Yes, Mr. Harris, I'll do
that." Then I started to think, what does he want it for? He said, "Oh,
incidentally, get a sort of half-gallon jar of this catalyst, make it up, don't
fill it all the way, and don't close the lid. Have it out in the control room."
[laughter] What do you do? So we fixed up a catalyst. We did the right thing. We
had sufficient materials on hand to really fix it up. We had everything we could
01:38:00think of. So we had a catalyst that looked just like the normal catalyst, and
put it out there in the control room, and didn't seal the cap.
So there it was, the UOP catalyst. He said to put any number on it that we
wanted; we used lab number 5. So we did that. Later on, after Old Dutch was
running pretty well, Mr. Harris called up and said, "I want to congratulate you
on how well the unit is running. Congratulations to you and your coworkers."
"Thank you; everybody has been in on it." [laughter] He said, "Incidentally, the
catalyst level in that jar is down. Would you fix up another batch?" [laughter]
That was typical of Mr. Harris. That's how Gerhold analyzed him--always very
careful. He said, "Val, have you tested this catalyst?" [laughter] I said, "No,
01:39:00Mr. Harris, I have not." He said, "What if it works?" [laughter] I said, "Mr.
Harris, if it works, it will set the science of catalysis either forward ten
years or backwards ten years, but I don't know which." [laughter] He said,
"That's good enough for me. Thanks, again." He was an extremely polite person
and just a wonderful guy to work for.
So that's how this thing came about--just a recognition of the problems. Later
on, as we realized that sulfur still had an influence in the system, we
desulfurized again, in order to reach these high octane numbers. We also
recognized, as time went on, that, we couldn't run at very high pressure.
The thing that we talked about (and I talked to the students about this, Jim) is
01:40:00that we started off with a simple reaction, like cyclohexane. What does it go
through? How does it get all the way to benzene? Most likely, it does this.
That was one of the things that I asked Ipatieff about. I said, "Do you believe
that it goes like this, all the way to the aromatic?" He said, "Do you know who
talked about this?" It was a very famous Russian chemist. Ipatieff had people he
really didn't trust too much; like the Russians. [laughter] He said, "I really
don't think that it does go like this:"
He said, "I really think it must have some intermediate points in it." I said,
"I think so, too."
Much later, I would say seven or eight years later when we really worked on
01:41:00these things, this is where we got the idea that we could probably study this
sequence, and if we ran it fast enough, in other words, an extremely short
contact time, perhaps we could find indications of cyclohexane and relate it to
the formation of final product [benzene]. After all, K1, K2, and K3 apply to
That is what made it fun.
We did this. Believe it or not, we made a run at 32,000 liquid outer space
velocity--that means 32,000 ccs, going over one cc of catalyst per hour. We
01:42:00diluted the catalyst so that we would not have too much of an endotherm problem,
and we diluted the feedstock also. In any event, it was 32,000 space velocity.
That was the time where we found, sure enough, that the ratio of the cyclohexene
to incremental benzene was increasing all the time, as we increased the space velocity.
This was the subject of a lecture about two or three days ago.
Here is a run using cyclohexane over a platinum
01:43:00catalyst, 300 pounds pressure. One thing we said from the very beginning, Jim,
was that we would simulate conditions as much as we could to commercial
conditions. People who worked at extreme vacuums, they don't understand
Have you ever interviewed Michel Boudart?
01:44:00HAENSEL: Michel Boudart was one of the few people who had appreciated the fact
that there is a tremendous gap between all the high vacuum work and atmospheric
pressure work. In our case, we ran it essentially at the temperature and
pressure required in a commercial unit. On this diagram this is space velocity,
32,000 space velocity, and then we ran a blank with no reaction. We watched for
increasing amounts of cyclohexene, and then we applied the ratio of cyclohexene
to incremental benzene. Here is our incremental benzene; this is a conversion of
cyclohexane to products, and there is a little MCP being formed.
01:45:00So you see, this ratio is increasing. This was real fun.
Right here, you see what happens; the ratio is increasing. In other words, so
this bird here or this bird right here is showing that you're really stopping
01:46:00the reaction. When our friend George Olah talks about stopping reactions, he
does not know how to stop the reaction. [laughter] You do it by really
understanding the chemical engineering behind it.
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 4]
HAENSEL: Most organic chemists really do not appreciate the importance of
chemical engineering; and most chemical engineers don't understand the need for
chemistry. That is really the key. My success is precisely because I've been in
both areas. [laughter] I try to understand what needs to be done and try to
understand the mechanism of how it occurs.
01:47:00I talked with Ipatieff about this conversion, shortly before his death. I asked
him about it, and he said he thought it went through the intermediates. He said,
"I just can't visualize how a molecule can sit down on the surface of a
catalyst, and all of the sudden lose six atoms of hydrogen." He couldn't! He had
a gut feeling. I said, "I'm going to find out," but unfortunately, he died
before we did these experiments.
BOHNING: One of the things I was struck by when I saw the statistics for Old
Dutch, was that there were relatively large amounts of hydrogen formed.
BOHNING: Does that present any problem when you're dealing with that?
HAENSEL: Well, on the contrary. One of the greatest things that goes with it, is
the use of the hydrogen. The hydrogen is recycled. We run in the presence of
01:48:00hydrogen to minimize polymerization.
But hydrogen is produced, and hydrogen is used very extensively. From all the
reforming units, they collect the hydrogen, and they then hydrocrack the oils
01:49:00and they also desulfurize the oils. There is a huge industry in hydrogen
denitrogenation and desulfurization. All of the countries require that you have
a minimum amount of sulfur and nitrogen in your products. Japan is particularly
difficult about that. That's why this hydrogen is tremendously important. We
just recycle it back to keep the coke off the catalyst. Okay?
HAENSEL: We published some of this at one of the student congresses. There was
an outcry, that this could not happen. I said, "Fellows, I do know this happens,
01:50:00and that's what it is." [laughter]
BOHNING: I'm wondering whether at this point I could get your reaction to some
things that I pulled out of different publications.
BOHNING: At one point , there was a World Petroleum Congress at The Hague,
and you got into a verbal battle with someone.
HAENSEL: That was [Eger V.] Murphree.
BOHNING: Okay. Since my reading didn't say who it was, I was curious about that.
HAENSEL: As far as I remember, that was Murphree. We announced platforming at
that point, more or less, when we were sure what was going on. We were doing
01:51:0090/90 percent, a 90 octane number or something like that. It was a tremendous
improvement. He said, "Well, we have our own workings with our own special
catalyst," which was a chromia catalyst or a moly catalyst at that time. "We can
do it. We can do these things." They never built the unit. [laughter]
Bob [Robert C.] Gunness, who was my professor at MIT and a Practice School
director-- later on he became the president and chief executive officer of
Amoco--wrote to me and said, "Val, I want to tell you that you spoiled a lot of
effort for me. When you came out with platforming, you spoiled all those
beautiful plans that we had for catalytic reforming." [laughter] I said, "I was
01:52:00glad to do it."
The thing that I resented, more than anything else, is the adage of those
biggies. I'm a little guy, and I worked for a little company. That was extra
pleasure to be able to do it. Do you understand what I mean?
BOHNING: Oh yes, absolutely.
HAENSEL: Of course, it has its problems, because the biggies liked to run all
BOHNING: This is a quote, I believe. You said, "Any
technical development is only as good as the interest you can arouse in people.
Once the critical people are sold, the input on their part is tremendously
important for the final technological success."
HAENSEL: You're quoting me?
01:53:00HAENSEL: That's good. I think that's correct. [laughter] I think that's
BOHNING: But how--
HAENSEL: How do you get to them?
BOHNING: Right. What techniques do you use to arouse people to get that interest
going? You talked before about the subterfuge you used with Mr. Harris.
[laughter] But, in general, how do you arouse people to get that interest going,
to sell your idea?
HAENSEL: I think what you really have to be, Jim, is tremendously enthusiastic
about a thing. I think it's your own enthusiasm. It's the same thing that the
students tell me. They said, "You know, we love your lectures; you're so
enthusiastic about these things. We sort of live with you." So I think you have
to do the same thing. I don't want to appear to be a sort of a salesman, but I
have something to sell.
Right now, I'm on a committee here, which deals with problems that we have with
01:54:00minority education. I have a terrible feeling in that area. What I really want
to know is how are we getting the minorities educated? Largely, particularly for
Blacks, their parents say, "Look, we don't want you to go into engineering."
"Why not?" the kid says. They say, "It's too complicated for you. Why don't you
take African studies instead?"
This is really what it is. We get an awful overload of African studies.
[laughter] They get jobs where they teach African studies. Before long, you're
all over the country. But the whole thing is wrong, because I want to educate.
01:55:00People say, "What about teaching in the other languages that come in?" I say, "I
came in and I had to learn English; that's all. [laughter] I'm an American--of
Russian origin. I do not want to teach anybody in Vietnamese or any other
language. I want to be myself, but I want to get someplace." It's a very
competitive spirit in that respect. I think they should have the same thing.
BOHNING: What was Ipatieff's attitude towards the United States, once he was here?
HAENSEL: He was very happy to be here; very happy. When he went to be
naturalized, the examiner asked him a number of questions about himself. He came
01:56:00out of a communist country, so he might be subversive or something like that.
[laughter] He asked him, "Do you go to church?" Ipatieff said, "Yes." The guy
said, "Which church?" Ipatieff said, "Any church; God is everywhere." [laughter]
That is one of the things that I have felt very strongly about. I would say I'm
a religious person. But you have to accept certain things. There's no question
about that. You have to accept the difficult things, the tragic things, with the
wonderful things. It is really that acceptance. I gave a talk at the church, on
religion and the life of a scientist. I said, "Being a scientist does not mean
that you have to be agnostic, an atheist, or anything else. All it really means
01:57:00is that I have to accept the fact that in my own mind, I have no way of
reconciling everything that we have with somebody pressing some buttons way back
here in evolution. Evolution is probably the best example of God's will." You
see what I'm driving at?
HAENSEL: To me, it has been a tremendous help to feel that way. I never say,
"Thank God it's Friday!" [laughter]
BOHNING: I have here a number of quotes.
HAENSEL: You must have done your homework.
BOHNING: Well, I did a little.
Oh, before I go to these quotes, we mentioned this briefly last night that in
1945, you were with the Technical Oil Mission [for the Petroleum Administration
01:58:00BOHNING: You were in Germany and you said that you had a chance to interrogate
BOHNING: Could you tell me a little more about that experience?
HAENSEL: He was a rather haughty person, and did not take to being interrogated
by some little twerp coming into his private domain. He had done all this work.
I said I just want to know what he did, auf Deutsch. He was very civil and very
polite, but I didn't get much out of him. He talked in generalities, about
01:59:00polymerization, etc. But there was nothing that I hadn't learned from other contacts.
BOHNING: Did you speak to him in German?
HAENSEL: Oh yes, yes.
BOHNING: Because he couldn't pull anything by speaking in German. [laughter]
HAENSEL: He didn't pull anything. But, as I told you, we had troubles with our
British counterparts. [laughter] It was a very interesting experience. In a way,
it was a very sad experience, seeing all the cities that were just devastated.
The Major in charge of our group said to me, "Val, I need your help." I said,
"What do you want me to do?" He said, "We have a place here, where we keep all
02:00:00the Russians. They were prisoners of war held by the Germans. We can't get rid
of them; we can't send them back at this point, because there is no
communication here. Would you like to go and talk to them in Russian?" [laughter]
These things were very sad but very interesting. One of the problems we had is
that the Russians would break into the plants and would drink wood alcohol. They
were looking for anything! But people get pretty desperate in wartime.
BOHNING: Let me go to these quotes, which I pulled out of the UOP history.
HAENSEL: My gosh! Are these words going to haunt me?
BOHNING: Well, they come out of this new UOP history.
02:01:00HAENSEL: Oh yes, okay.
BOHNING: I'd just like to get your reaction to some of these. In talking about
your beginning work on platforming, the authors say, and I quote: "Haensel
showed little enthusiasm for the project, at first. He tended to work
differently from many others on the staff."
BOHNING: "He had a restless, impatient mind, and scant tolerance for a slow,
meticulous evolutionary approach to science."
HAENSEL: Good. I learned that from Ipatieff. [laughter]
BOHNING: "He preferred to rely heavily on instinct and take quantum leaps from
one research avenue to another, until he hit on something that his gut feeling
told him would be productive." We already discussed that. "Working on reforming
would be shear drudgery."
02:02:00You're quoted as saying that; meaning you were reluctant to start on this project.
HAENSEL: To start on the project, which means repeating the same old cobalt
catalyst or chromia catalyst, or moly catalyst. Rehashing old stuff--forget it!
That was the idea for the quantum leap. Wouldn't you do the same thing?
BOHNING: Well there's also a description of an argument you had with Gerhold in
which you said you wanted to work on something else, and he said--
HAENSEL: "You will work on this." That's what he's quoted as saying.
HAENSEL: That's not quite correct.
BOHNING: That's why I wanted to ask you.
HAENSEL: Yes, that is not quite correct. I wouldn't quote it that way, because
Larry never talked to me that way. Never! He was the most polite guy and we had
wonderful discussions. He was the first one to champion the whole damn thing.
02:03:00That quote is not really very proper. I think they said [Chester J.] Giuliana
was involved there too, but it's hard to say what he said because he's now dead.
[laughter] Giuliana was a very nice guy and a very, very good patent lawyer.
I hope they say nice things about Mr. Harris.
BOHNING: Oh yes, yes.
Here's another one with Gerhold. Let me continue. "Gerhold and Haensel clashed
on research tactics. Gerhold quarreled with Haensel's tendency to cut broad
corners of the scientific method to move the work ahead."
HAENSEL: You mean, I was in favor of it?
BOHNING: The author states that Gerhold quarreled with your tendency to cut
02:04:00broad corners of the scientific method. This is the author's quote.
HAENSEL: No, I never said that, but that's all right. This must be this guy Hal
Higdon who wrote that.
BOHNING: But Gerhold conceded that, "Haensel has an uncanny chemical instinct."
It's interesting, we're coming back to that instinct again.
BOHNING: "His approach saves time, the most expensive thing in research and development."
HAENSEL: I'll buy that. I'll take credit for that.
BOHNING: It's interesting. We're talking about innovation and discovery, but
I've never really thought before about instinct in that context. Yet it's come
up several times already.
HAENSEL: This is really I think what I learned from Ipatieff. I would say that I
02:05:00saw instinct in W. K. Lewis, who certainly was the greatest chemical engineer
that MIT ever had. W. K. Lewis had a certain gut feeling about things. We were
talking and he said, "I want to talk about a piece of equipment. This is what
it's doing." He described it, without the floor diagram and everything else.
Then he said, "You know, I've never seen this, but this is the way it should
be." [laughter] That is really where the gut feeling thing came from. It grows
in you. I think this is the contribution of the giants, more than anything else,
developing this instinct in you. I think you can put that into your thinking,
because it is an important part. We don't pay much attention to instincts.
Someone's instincts can be bad; they could be all wrong. But in general, it is
02:06:00very, very helpful.
BOHNING: I also understand (and we touched on this a little) that there was
considerable opposition to platforming from the sales department.
HAENSEL: Yes. You know why, don't you?
BOHNING: Well, they related it to the established processes; they weren't
thinking in terms of something new.
HAENSEL: That's right.
BOHNING: They were thinking in terms of modifying the old process.
HAENSEL: They were sold on selling the same old stuff. This is why one of my pet
statements is that, industrially, if you want to talk about something new, you
never talk to the marketing people. Never! Because what do they know? They only
02:07:00know the past; they don't look into the future.
You may have heard the name, Don Broughton? He was the man who developed the
Molex process. Don Broughton, to me, was one of the most distinguished members
of the Academy. He came from MIT; he taught at MIT and then came to UOP. An
absolutely wonderful guy! He developed the Molex process. It was great. I think
he was another guy who probably had the right instinct. This is why there was so
much admiration between Gerhold and Don Broughton.
02:08:00I was elected to the Academy of Engineering, and the following year I nominated
Don Broughton. He won on the first round, which is very unusual. You know, I
vote on these things for the Academy of Engineering, and I see people's names
come up for fifteen years or so; [laughter] it's terrible. But this guy came in
immediately, because they could see what he did. He had the right instinct for
it. He had a revolutionary idea. So that is the way instinct really works. You
obey those instincts. It doesn't go away, either; you keep on thinking about the
There are many instances. There was a guy who was talking about the intricacies
of the atom. A Britisher who got the Nobel Prize. I can't think of his name
02:09:00right now. He said the idea about the construction of the atom came to him on a
solitary walk in Cambridge Woods, or something like that.
BOHNING: Was this [Sir Ernest] Rutherford?
HAENSEL: It could have been.
BOHNING: Or [Joseph J.] Thompson.
HAENSEL: One of the two. The thing that is really interesting is that I found
that myself. We have a greenhouse. Our house has a beautiful entrance. Hertha
does a beautiful job on that. We have a bougainvillea that's blossoming right
now. Out of this world!
Anyway, working with plants, working with your hands, and thinking nice thoughts
about chemistry are very compatible. There are two things that I have told to my
02:10:00employees, people who work for me, and my friends. You never take your troubles
from work to home, and you never take your troubles from home to work. One of my
associates came in the other day and said, "I listened to what you have to say
about this. I think that's very true. You must never do that because you're no
good at either place. That's what happens." [laughter]
So those are some of the less famous quotes that I have of my own. [laughter]
You've already discussed the experiences of yourself and others within the
company in selling research management.
BOHNING: Well, at one point, you became the research management.
BOHNING: What was your attitude towards those who were trying to sell you on new processes?
HAENSEL: That's a very good question. I think what I had to do really is to be
very, very careful. You have to give a fair shake to any idea that a person has.
02:12:00I think the way it has worked out is that the results were excellent. For about
a ten- or twelve-year period, we were churning out one new commercial process
every year. People like Herman Bloch were full of ideas. I had wonderful
discussions with him. I was in charge, no more than he was in charge with me,
because it was such a great friendship.
I could not tolerate people (and I still can't) who are too pompous, who think
their ideas are the best in the world. You have to be very careful how you
handle them, because you may want to keep them, but not too much. I had one guy,
02:13:00for example, who I had to fire.
The door was always open, except when I really had to have some private
discussions with somebody. You gained the respect of the people by doing that.
As I said, I spent two hours each day talking to the people who were on the
firing line, and appreciating their comments and getting their inputs. Some of
these guys in the pilot plants had no college education at all. They came off
the street. You and I have a Ph.D., but we must never let it show. This is the
02:14:00thing; you must never do that! You never have to show that you're the boss.
In that respect, my attitude was really to realize that there's a difference
between my position as vice president and director of research, and the people
who worked for me. But never have I said, "Look, I'm in charge, and this is what
you're going to do." With respect to hiring people, we always had a group of
people interviewing people. I think the present interviewing system is actually
for the birds. I may have written something about it in one of the Chemtech
articles. I'm not sure if I had it in that article
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 5]
HAENSEL: In other words, what you want to know is, how do I behave myself as a
boss? You don't have to take yourself seriously. You don't have to be very
important. You have to react to management wishes, which sometimes are a little
obscure. But, in general, I have had very good experiences with everybody that I
worked for, going all the way back to Mr. Halle. As I said, I was amazed how
02:16:00astute some financier like that could be in looking at the future. That's where
we have lost out now, in this bottom line profit.
That's my great fear in this country--the tendency to watch the bottom line. You
see it all the time. I think somehow we lost, Jim, the frontier spirit in
science. People might say there are wonderful things going on. They are
wonderful things, but they're results of an awful lot of work by people who
still believe in science as a wonderful occupation.
02:17:00I wouldn't have traded it for anything. You probably feel the same way, don't you?
BOHNING: Oh, yes.
Were you ever in the position, when you were in charge of research, to kill an
idea? If so, what criteria did you use to make that judgment?
HAENSEL: To make that decision? That's a very difficult decision. I don't think
I've ever really killed anything. I merely indicated that it was just not
worthwhile from all standpoints, but normally, from a technological standpoint,
you explain that it isn't so hot. Besides, these guys weren't very sure either.
02:18:00[laughter] That was part of it. So you see, research management, if you want to
call it that, is a very pleasant occupation, and it's not subject to rules per
se. You played by the seat of your pants, for each individual person that comes
to you with an idea. Also, it comes with ideas as to how people react. Let me
give you an example.
We had a symposium, which was by the ACS, which dealt with hiring practices and
interviews. In fact, Hertha and I now hold sessions with the students, with
respect to interview guidelines, et cetera, which I think are very critical.
After that ACS session, this guy came up to me and said, "I'm going to interview
at DuPont tomorrow. What do you think my chances are?" I said, "You have no
02:19:00chance at all." He said, "How come?" I said, "Look at yourself in the mirror. A
beard, sideburns? [laughter] You look awful." He said, "But that's me." I said,
"That's not DuPont." That is the real difference. This is where you really have
to pull the plug on these guys.
The same thing applies in research. There are some things that are so far out.
The thing that really got my goat, more than anything else, was continuing to
work on something which had already been worked on and then merely add a little
something else to it. It isn't worth it. But you have to remember, Jim, that UOP
has all the way through been extremely set on licensing, which is so different
02:20:00from actual production. This is where we got so far ahead of all the other
companies--by virtue of the fact that we have no commercial operation per se,
except making catalyst, detergent, etc.
We were selling technology. This is what that book actually is called, isn't it?
BOHNING: Ideas for Rent.
HAENSEL: Ideas for Rent. I think that's a very good title. We're so far ahead of
others because to the others, you had to justify what you've done within your
own company. The most difficult sale is within the company. As we found out
within UOP, it was difficult to sell inside, despite all the efforts on the part
of people like Larry Gerhold and Bob [Robert E.] Sutherland. Bob Sutherland is
another very, very good person in connection with pushing platforming. We really
02:21:00had some champions; this is what you need. You've got to find yourself an
entrepreneur who's close to the top. Larry was certainly one like that.
BOHNING: There's a story of a group of researchers coming to Willard Dow asking
for support for a project and they said to him, "Willard, we know this will
work; this is the way DuPont does it." Willard's response was, "If we can't do
it better and differently than DuPont, we're not going to do it." [laughter]
HAENSEL: That's very good. Exactly.
You must get an awful lot of sayings from these different interviews, don't you?
BOHNING: It's interesting; I hadn't thought about that until just as you were
describing this; it fits in perfectly with what you're saying.
HAENSEL: Yes. Another thing I want to emphasize is that in all cases, in any
research management, you never denigrate anybody. For example, I know some
02:22:00professors who would say to some student who has asked a question, "It's a damn
foolish question, isn't it, if you think of it?" You never do that. There's
another thing that you never do. We have one guy here, right now, who's a very
good professor. I'm a member of the personnel committee, and I have to listen to
lectures. The question he raised was, "Is there anybody here who doesn't
understand this?" [laughter] You never do that; you can't, because you never
trespass on the personal feelings of that person. Never do that, because that's
denigrating; let your guy stay honorable.
I can't do that to the students. Hertha says I'm just a soft guy, a softie.
02:23:00[laughter] A girl would come around, and she would cry, because she feared an
exam. I just let her cry, and then I said, "That's fine. Let's look at what
happened, and let's see if we can do better next time, but the grade remains the
same." [laughter] But I can see some reasons. For example, a girl came in
yesterday. I didn't realize she was in an automobile accident. Her head is still
not very good; she still has a nervous reaction. It's tough to take an exam
under those conditions, and I can see it then. She said, "Do you believe me?" I
said, "You tell me, I trust you. I have no reason not to believe you." But I
didn't say, "If you try it again..." [laughter]
02:24:00BOHNING: What about scientific teamwork, especially in an industrial setting?
What are your experiences with that? You started out on platforming with one or
HAENSEL: Two assistants. That's right, yes.
BOHNING: Then it built and built and built.
HAENSEL: Yes, it started out with two people, then it got up to about ten, then
it got up to thirty, then I got to three-hundred. You talk about teamwork. I
think the real answer to it is how you pick the people. If there is a brand new
idea, you've got to involve the inventor in it as much as possible. Let him
still be the most important part of the whole picture. You must not turn it over to
somebody and say, "Let's see if you can do all of it." Keep him or her in there,
whoever it is. That is really the spirit behind it.
For example, this is why UOP let me go on to Old Dutch. They didn't have to. But
I would have been very sad if I couldn't have gone. But it was also this spirit
02:25:00of Mr. Harris that was doing that sort of thing; that you allow people to show
their very best. As I told you about this man with fifty patents who came from a
two-year college, give him a chance!
There is something new going on, and somebody told me about it on the telephone
yesterday. Do you know Marcia [Dresner]? She is one of the editors of Chemtech.
BOHNING: Yes, I've talked to her; I know her.
HAENSEL: Yes. A very nice lady. I never met her. She said there's a new division
in ACS, which deals with technicians. She said you should investigate that. I
think that is a wonderful idea.
BOHNING: They've had a preliminary, or temporary status for some time.
02:26:00HAENSEL: That's right. Now it has been legalized. I think that's a very, very
There is this other guy who wrote to me about this project of making the
Riverside facility as a shrine, [laughter] this historical business. I think
it's a good idea.
BOHNING: Absolutely. As I said last night, I encourage you to have him talk to
me, and we'll see what we can work out.
HAENSEL: I'll do that, yes. I'll get a hold of him because I have your card here.
BOHNING: While all of this was going on, what kind of contact was there with
02:27:00other companies? You talked about the discussion with Murphree.
HAENSEL: That's right.
BOHNING: Did you work isolated or were you aware of your counterparts?
HAENSEL: For example, I would participate in visits to Shell and to other
companies. Whether I was sort of a show thing (you know what I mean?), I wasn't
quite sure. But they wanted somebody who knew the business, I guess. They wanted
to me to reinforce things. At the same time, the company was very clever. They
wanted to keep their own people in place at the same time, but they didn't
overdo the sale.
I've gone to many other companies, and it was a very interesting experience. It
was really an eye-opener. Some of the companies were really not terribly
interesting. But others were very much so; very, very interesting. We got
something out of it every time.
02:28:00I've done some consulting, after having been here, and those contacts have also
shown me, right away, how to behave yourself. [laughter]
BOHNING: We've talked a little about this, but let me ask it again. Because you
had such a long time period with UOP, what changes did you see happening in
support for R&D over your career, and why?
HAENSEL: The changes that I have seen, which I think have not been dramatic, is
the tendency to form one group or the other to be dominant. In other words, the
whole idea is that there was a beautiful relationship, a hands-off relationship
02:29:00in a way, between chemical engineers and chemists. That's what we had in the
past, and I want to push it, because basically it was both. That's what my
02:30:00education was about, and I could see both sides. But I could not see dominance
by one or the other because that would be deadly. This is what you got to watch
out for. We went through a period where there was too much dominance; too much
pressure from the chemical engineers. You do this or else. Whatever it was. It
was not good.
02:31:00Now, what's next on the agenda? You brought up something before.
BOHNING: We were talking about company R&D and support; we've already talked
about the changes in company attitude. You mentioned that earlier.
HAENSEL: Yes. That was really the best company. One of these days I might write
something about it. It has to be a completely cooperative effort between
chemists and chemical engineers. One side or the other must not dominate because
they're completely different people. I think the only reason for any success in
that respect, as far as research management is concerned, is that I could see
02:32:00beneath both sides. But never one oppressing the other one.
I'll give you an example. One of my employees or coworkers, as I would call
them, came to me and talked to me about something. I said, "Are you sure it's
going to work?" He said, "Trust
me, I know it will work." [laughter] That puts you in a difficult situation. I
said, "Look I can only trust you as far as I can throw a grand piano."
[laughter] But this is the question that you have to be very, very careful with.
The best relationship that we have had at UOP, as far as people that work for
02:33:00you, was between Herman Bloch and myself. I was in charge, but I never
considered myself to be in charge, in that respect. I think any emphasis on
being the boss is deadly, because it creates a feeling of insecurity on the part
of the employees because you have the right to fire them. You do have the right,
but it's an unwritten situation.
The worst examples are these insecure bosses. Frankly, I never felt insecure. I
think this is really the way people should feel. I could never denigrate.
BOHNING: What do you think is important for the future vitality of research and
development in a company setting?
02:34:00HAENSEL: In a company setting. You mean in companies dealing with R&D. Vitality?
Maybe, to a large extent, Jim, it should be the ability for the company to
sponsor independent thought, and support independent thought, more than anything
else. But also, there is a very important part, which I failed to mention
before, and that is the origin of ideas. If you live in a sort of a vacuum,
there will be no way for you to know what is needed in the marketplace. In other
words, you simply can't say we need this or that. As I said, the places I stay
away from are the marketing people.
02:35:00Consider the perfect vacuum to begin with, if such a thing exist. Somehow, you
must have an input. Where do the ideas originate? How do you sponsor ideas? I
think where UOP prospered and made a lot of progress was by supporting the
attendance at technical meetings for all employees. There used to be a pecking
order. Management thinks it's a picnic. It's not a picnic. Hertha and I don't go
02:36:00to the Petroleum Division meetings, because I think we still know it pretty
well. We'll go to some other meetings that are much more interesting and they
elevate your viewpoint.
The general attitude on the part of the major oil companies has been that they
don't want to send people to the meetings for two reasons. Number one, they
might give away things. Number two, it's too expensive; we're losing time from
them. A week at an ACS meeting? Forget it! We can only send three people. It's
ridiculous; it's absolutely ridiculous.
During my time, I could have sent anybody to Timbuktu, as far as that's
concerned. I had a certain budget, obviously; it was not endless. But the idea
02:37:00is that the places where you get ideas is from contacts with other people and
not necessarily the marketing department, because the marketing department is
doing what it has to, to sell in the market. [laughter] Do you see what I mean?
HAENSEL: But you raised a very important point. Where do these ideas come from?
It comes from a fair amount of reading of really good journals. I don't mean
necessarily Scientific American, because that's terribly narrow. I don't know
whether you've come across Discover Magazine?
BOHNING: Oh, yes.
HAENSEL: Are you a subscriber?
BOHNING: I used to be.
HAENSEL: It's wonderful.
BOHNING: My problem was that I had too many subscriptions and I couldn't read
them all. [laughter]
HAENSEL: You couldn't read them all; I had the same trouble. Somebody told me,
"Why don't you start Discover? I said, "I really don't have time to read it."
02:38:00But Discover is very good. Discover is good because they speak the language of
the layman, and I think that's an important part. I think reading is important.
I get an awful lot of ideas just reading. I don't necessarily mean something
like Chemical and Engineering News, but there are even some very good things in
there. The place I really get an awful lot out of, strangely enough, is Science.
It comes out every week and there are some marvelous things in there. Absolutely
fascinating. I think this really is a sort of mind-broadening thing, that you
get ideas from. Some of the things that they discuss are so close to what the
things that you're looking for.
I wrote a letter to Science, Jim. I think it may be
02:39:00on the list. It was October 8th of last year. Did you see it by any chance?
HAENSEL: It says, "Transportation costs and the national debt." Believe it or
not. What it really dealt with is the fact that we should look at how much we
spend per mile every time you drive your
car. Driving up here cost you 43 cents per mile. Believe it or not. That is the
02:40:00cost of transportation. If you realized that it's really costing you that much,
you would think twice before going to get the paper around the corner or
something like that. [laughter] The concept is that when you measure the cost of
owning a car and put all the expenses together, it amounts to approximately 43
cents per mile. Do you believe that?
HAENSEL: It's incredible, isn't it? In fact, I'll get you a copy of that. I
think we probably have a copy. It was in Science of October 8th of last year. I
have a number of requests for it, and a number of questions. I gave it to the
class without my name on it. I gave it to the class and said, "See what you
think of it." Many of the students really enjoyed it. Others said, "Absolute
02:41:00trash! I would never do this!" [laughter] To him or her, it really meant, "My
car is my kingdom." But that was part of it. How did I get into that subject? I
BOHNING: We were talking about where the future of R&D is going and what is
necessary for it.
HAENSEL: To me, the most incredible thing in the world, Jim, is that the
internal combustion engine was developed after the fuel cell was developed. The
fuel cell, in effect, is a low-temperature operation. The most difficult part
02:42:00about our current gasoline engine that we have is that it has 16 percent
efficiency. You buy three gallons of gas. One gallon goes out of the exhaust
gas; one gallon goes to keep the engine cool; and the other gallon goes to the
wheels, where unfortunately the efficiency is only 50 percent. So by then, you
have 16 percent efficiency. [laughter] This is age-old. In other words, where do
these ideas come?
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 6]
02:43:00HAENSEL: In other words, just think, where do ideas come from? Isn't it
ridiculous, that we, in this day and age, can put a man up on the moon, but we
can't improve our mode of transportation, which results in all this pollution
that we have? Even a diesel engine, instead of being 16 percent efficient, is
probably about at the best, 23 or 24 percent.
So where do the ideas come from? Ideas, I think, to a large extent, come from
realizing--and I don't mean the problems of the world with respect to
relationship with other people or anything like that--what are we doing that
02:44:00it's so very inefficient? We have many inefficiencies in the actual chemical
plants that we use. Separations are not terribly efficient.
You've met Mike [Michael F.] Doherty yesterday, didn't you?
HAENSEL: He's our chairman. I think one of his forecasts (if you want to call it
that) is really being able to create systems that provide for much better
separations, where the investment in energy is much reduced. If you look at a
commercial plant right now or an oil refinery, probably about six to eight
percent of the total heat availability within a barrel of oil is used up within
the refinery, which is perhaps not too bad, because you know you got an awful
lot of high-temperature processes going on.
02:45:00In other places where we are very wasteful. We're wasteful in the basic idea of
energy in and energy out, and the concepts that go with it. There is too much
work being done in areas where there is less energy out than the energy you put
in. We have all these things coming around, Jim, such as where people say, "Now
look, let us convert manure into energy." The most important point that people
do not realize is that the gathering of all of the waste products, such as
manure, or gathering of wood for converting into energy is very, very wasteful.
02:46:00The most important concept is, what is the energy balance? We do not recognize that.
I think this is where the ideas come to people. How can you do a better job? In
that case, it doesn't mean a better catalyst, it means, really, a recognition of
what we do and what we do wrong. Does that make sense?
HAENSEL: Does it answer the question to a certain extent? I think that covers that.
As I said before, when we go to meetings, we go to meetings that are sort of
alien to us. But that's where we learn. As I said, Science is a good source
magazine. Discover is a very good way of scientific entertainment. Scientific
American, I'm going to stop the subscription to it, because it's written by
02:47:00professors, and professors are not good.
What other questions do you have?
BOHNING: I have one more question. What effect did winning the Perkin Medal have
HAENSEL: Pleasure. Is that good enough? I mean, it was nice.
BOHNING: Did it have any effect on your career?
HAENSEL: No. Do you know what really had a tremendous effect upon me? I don't
02:48:00mean to mask that point. But very strangely, I had a man who was working with me
in automotive exhaust control. We had a substantial project in that. His name is
Martin Perga. I had a call from Martin Perga about five or six years ago, and
Marty said, "Doc, I have a favor to ask of you." I said "Marty, what is it?" I
was thinking to myself that it had been so long since we worked together. He's a
very good man. He's now in charge of a refinery out west. He said, "My first son
was born yesterday, and I would like to name him after you." I said, "Marty,
02:49:00I've gotten many awards, but none of them has brought tears to my eyes like this
one. I'm delighted." When Hertha heard about it, she said, "Does anybody want to
be called Vladimir in this country?" [laughter] Vladimir Alexander Perga. When
you asked what the Perkin Award meant to me, the call from Marty Perga was much
more because it went straight to the heart.
BOHNING: That's marvelous.
HAENSEL: Yes, it was just great.
BOHNING: Well, we've been going for over three hours.
HAENSEL: You said it!
BOHNING: I appreciate the time you spent. Is there anything else you think we
should cover at this point?
HAENSEL: No, I'm in your hands, really. I gave you everything that you needed to
02:50:00have. Did I give you all the stuff?
HAENSEL: You've got everything.
02:51:00BOHNING: Let me just finish then by thanking you for spending the time with me
this morning; I really enjoyed it.
HAENSEL: Boy, it was a pleasure to me. Yes, yes, come back; we'll talk about
BOHNING: I'm sure we could have quite a lot more to talk about.
HAENSEL: Before you turn the recorder off, Jim, I think it would be very
important for us that you come and visit the department and talk to some of the
people here. There are some really new wonderful ideas circulating around here.
It's part of our chemical heritage, right?
BOHNING: Yes, it is.
HAENSEL: It says right here--Chemical Heritage. [laughter]
[END OF TAPE, SIDE 7]
[END OF INTERVIEW]