Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Economics conditions in chemistry in 1938

Via H.C. Brown's "Boranes in Organic Chemistry", this item from the foreword: 
I received my Ph.D. degree in 1938. The economic situation was still quite poor. An academic position was too much to hope for. (As far as I know, not a single man from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago obtained an academic position during my years there, 1935 to 1938.) Even industrial positions were rare. I heard of an opening at the Sherwin-Williams Paint Company and applied unsuccessfully. I then applied for a position in the patent department of Universal Oil Products, again without success. My every effort to avoid my future in an academic career was foiled.

At this point Professor M. S. Kharasch offered me a postdoctoral appointment in his group at an annual stipend of $1,600, and the die was cast. Originally I was supposed to work with him on the isola tion of an active principle from pituitary glands, a far cry from my doctoral studies. Fortunately for me, he encountered difficulties in his negotiations with one of the packing houses for a gift of $2,000 worth of glands. He suggested that while these difficulties were being resolved I should explore the possibility of using sulfuryl chloride to achieve the chlorosulfonation of paraffinic hydrocarbons. These studies proved so fruitful (Chapter III) that I was not diverted from my studies even after the glands arrived.

 You really wonder if the folks at Sherwin-Williams ever kicked themselves for not hiring H.C. Brown. 

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