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Seeking Oral History Interviewees

July 23, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 30

I am writing on behalf of the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s (CHF) Oral History Program, which aims to contribute to the preservation of the modern history of chemistry through recording the thoughts, recollections, and insights of the women and men who practice this intriguing science. Since our founding 30 years ago, CHF has amassed an oral history collection of well over 700 interviews that give us perspective on various fields within chemistry; on the practices and research methods of notable, award-winning chemists; on mentorship; on the design, development, and deployment of equipment and instrumentation; on collaboration and competition within science; on different chemical companies and industries; and on living a scientific life. Now we would like your help in expanding our collection.

It is easy to identify some of the people who should be interviewed for an oral history: Perusing lists of awards given during the course of a year is a simple way to develop such a list (which we regularly do), and a number of interviewees are suggested to us by word of mouth or through interactions that we have with chemists at relevant events held around the country.

There are many more individuals, however, about whom we have never heard, people who are critical to chemistry in an assortment of ways. There are lecturers who inspire individuals to undertake a scientific life and mentors who guide students through their graduate work and young faculty through their early careers. There are those who contribute their time, knowledge, and insight to colleagues’ work and people whose own published work has been critical to understanding core concepts in the chemical sciences. And, of course, there are those who should have won an award but never did. This is why the oral history program at CHF needs your help—we want to know whom we have missed.

This year—and, I hope, in years to come—we would like you to nominate individuals for us to interview during the course of our annual interview cycle. You should feel free to nominate anyone you think has been an asset to the chemical sciences, whether it is someone who regularly challenged you and improved your science with probing questions, someone who guided you through your early career, someone whose work was core to your own research, or someone who developed a technique or an instrument that has been truly indispensable to you.

For more information about those we have already interviewed, you can look at our collections online at Once all of the nominations are in, we will develop a list of the most-nominated individuals and will begin contacting them to see if they would be interested in participating in our Oral History Program.

If you have any questions for me about the Oral History Program, about our collections, or about someone you would like to nominate, please feel free to contact me at any time. You can fill out our nomination survey at Please submit your nominations by the end of September. Thanks so much for your help.

By David J. Caruso
Program Manager, Oral History
Chemical Heritage Foundation


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