Oral history interview with James A. Fisher

Oral history interview with James A. Fisher

  • 2001-Dec-19

James A. Fisher begins the interview with a description of his family and early years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After graduating early from Yale University because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Fisher secured a position in a smelter plant making aluminum for warplanes at Alcoa Inc. In 1945, Fisher left Alcoa to work for his father, Chester G. Fisher, at the family business, Fisher Scientific International Inc. While at Fisher Scientific, Fisher became fascinated with his father's collection of alchemical art. Fisher's interest grew to the extent that he began to purchase paintings, engravings, and photographs relating to alchemy to add to the growing Fisher Collection. After the death of his father, Fisher was instrumental in the creation of the Fisher Museum, which was used to display the Fisher Collection, and the Pasteur Room, which was dedicated to the achievements of Louis Pasteur. Fisher concludes the interview with reflections on his role in the donation of the Fisher Collection to the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 40 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

Lloyd DeWitt is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Maryland, College Park, and is currently a museum fellow working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He was the 2001–2002 Price Fellow, and collaborated with Lawrence Principe on Transmutations, the CHF guidebook to the Fisher and Eddleman Collections. His area of specialization is Dutch and Flemish painting of the seventeenth century. In 1993 he received his MA in art history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Marjorie Gapp is the curator of art and images at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. She comes from a fine-arts background and was awarded both a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant. As part of her work with the collections, she has mounted many exhibits including, Spinning the Elements: Wallace Carothers and the Nylon Legacy, Dow Chemical Portrayed, and Transmutations: Alchemy in Art: Selections from the Eddleman and Fisher Collections. She recently coordinated a yearlong research project of the Eddleman and Fisher Collections of alchemical art.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • March 15, 1920
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
  • February 12, 2014
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1942 Yale University BA Chemistry

Professional Experience

Aluminum Company of America

  • 1942 to 1944 Engineer

Fisher Scientific International, Inc.

  • 1945 to 1950 Sales Staff
  • 1950 to 1960 Sales Manager, Director
  • 1963 to 1981 Senior Vice President and Director
  • 1981 to 1985 Assistant to the President

Kipling Corporation

  • 1985 Chairman and President

Cite as

Fisher, James A. (James Aiken), interviewed by Lloyd DeWitt and Marjorie Gapp in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 19, 2001. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0229. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/xg94hq476.

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PDF — 236 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads