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Baker, William O. (William Oliver), 1915-2005
Oral history interview with William O. Baker, 1985 May 23 and June 18.
Baker discusses his childhood on Maryland's Eastern Shore; his education at Washington College and Princeton University where, following his interest in physical chemistry, he conducted Ph.D. research under C.P. Smyth, following a program on the dielectic properties of medium length chains and graduating in 1938. In 1939, following his interest in combining industrial and basic science and technology, he accepted a Bell Laboratories position as a member of the technical staff. He discusses his early career at the Labs, the atmosphere there, equipment availability, information exchange, and the use of technical memoranda to introduce technical findings to colleagues. Also discussed are relationships between Summit Labs and New York headquarters staff and within research groups; colleagues, including S. O. Morgan; and the use of literature research to monitor polymer chemistry developments at DuPont and in industry internationally.
The second session begins with an overview of Bell Labs' role in the birth of the solid state era, and the use of Labs' resources for new research programs supporting telecommunications and information handling. He describes the application of research findings in using x-ray diffraction techniques to study crystallinity of polymers to electronics and communications industries and the emergence of polyethylene and polyethylene-like materials throughout all industry. In 1942, Bell Labs became the center of the U.S. rubber Reserve, formed to conserve existing rubber and create synthetic rubber for use during World War II. Baker contributed to the Reserve's scientific planning and work by applying earlier researach on crystalline cellulose esters, polyesters and polyamides. Bell Labs recruited major industrial and university centers and researchers for the project, including I.M. Kolthoff, Debye, and others from Cornell, MIT, Harverd, Princeton and U.S. Rubber. Throughout the interview, scientific themes are related to changes in the organizational structure of Bell Labs, and to patterns of communication within relevant scientific communities.
Chemist (physical chemistry, polymer science). Associated with Bell Laboratories from 1939. He became president of Bell Labs in 1973 and chairman of the board from 1979-1980.
Bell Telephone Laboratories
Chemistry, Physical and theoretical.
Science and industry.
Interviews. aat
Oral histories. aat
Transcripts. aat
Sturchio, Jeffrey L. (Jeffrey Louis), 1952- interviewer.
Goldstein, Marcy. interviewer.
American Institute of Physics. Niels Bohr Library & Archives. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA