Oral history interview with Herman Mark

Oral history interview with Herman Mark

  • 1986-Feb-03 (First session)
  • 1986-Mar-17 (Second session)
  • 1986-Jun-20 (Third session)

In this first of three interviews Herman Mark starts with his study of relatively stable free radicals under the direction of Wilhelm Schlenk, first in Vienna and then in Berlin. After a post doctoral period at the University of Berlin, Mark was invited by Haber to join the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute at Dahlem. There, Mark collaborated with Polanyi and other colleagues in using x-ray diffraction to establish the crystal structures of small organic molecules and metals. This work as extended to naturally occurring organic materials such as cellulose and silk. As a consequence, Mark was able to play an important role at the critical 1926 meeting in Dusseldorf, which brought together Staudinger and the opponents of the macromolecular hypothesis.
Mark's next move was to I.G. Farben, where he established a polymer laboratory. That was also where he first collaborated with Kurt Meyer, with whom he published the pioneering x-ray crystallographic structure of cellulose. Mark describes the laboratories, research directions, and colleagues during his stay at Ludwigshafen. The worsening political climate in Germany prompted Mark to accept a chair at his alma mater. Back in Vienna, he set up the first comprehensive polymer research and teaching institute. Mark concludes this interview by describing the circumstances of an approach from the Canadian International paper Company and his decision to leave Austria.
The second interview details his experiences in the Canadian paper industry and his early ventures into publishing with the first of the Polymer Monograph series. Mark explains how he was able to resume an academic career by starting the polymer program at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute which soon would become world renowned. Mark tells of his part in the formation of the literature of polymer science and technology: journals, monographs, reference books and encyclopedias. Finally Mark refers to his more recent research interests and describes the changes in research funding that have taken place during the past four decades.

Place of interview
Original file type MP3, PDF
  • 117 pages
Rights In Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Permitted
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Related URL
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

Physical location


Cite as

Mark, H. F. (Herman Francis), interviewed by James J. Bohning in Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn on March 17, 1986. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0030. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/zw12z6384.

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Transcript (Published Version)

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

19 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads