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