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Elaborating On A Chemical Landmark

June 24, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 25

It was gratifying to read Linda Wang’s article on the naming of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research—part of Carnegie Mellon University—as a National Historic Chemical Landmark (C&EN, May 6, page 45). I wish to elaborate.

Under the leadership of Paul Flory and Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway in 1957, Mellon Institute initiated a program in fundamental chemical research to complement the long and outstanding activity in applied research documented in the C&EN article. The program provided an opportunity for both kinds of researchers to interact and provide intellectual stimulation. This new effort was done at the institute’s own initiative and funding and provided a unique opportunity for many individuals, including me, to start research careers.

As a newly minted Ph.D. in 1957, I was appointed the Mellon Institute’s first Fundamental Research Fellow in organic chemistry. I was able to launch my own research program and determine whether or not I could succeed on my own. Thus, it was different from a typical postdoctoral appointment where a new Ph.D. usually works under the supervision of, and on the projects for, a principal investigator. Mellon provided superb facilities, support staff, and an environment that enabled me to launch a 50-year career in organic chemistry research.

A. William (Bill) Johnson
Raymore, Mo.


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