CHEMICAL RESEARCH - American Chemical Society

In recent years the progress of American industry has been greatly ac- celerated by the application of research; in fact, it has become one of the fun...
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I n recent years the progress of American industry has been greatly accelerated by the application of research; in fact, it has become one of the fundamentals of industrial progress. Most of the research work carried out by industry has been applied research, using the background of furzdamental knowledge created largely by scientists working i n university laboratories. This background of fundamental knowledge must be continually enlarged in order to insure future progress. Industry has recognized its responsibility for fundamental research both by conducting fundamental research itself, and by coiperating with our educational institutions. Continuity of research. i s essential if it i s to be successful. While i n times of depression the nature of the problems may alter; nevertheless, the advantage of a n experienced, welltrained research organization is well recognized by industry, and as a rule unusual efforts are made to avoid the dismemberment of prozled research organizations.

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Ours is an industrial civilization. Today we speak of the steel industry, the oil industry, the automobile industry, the textile industry, the rubber industry, the dye industry, the glass industry, the fertilizer industry, and so on. Taken collectively, these industries, for the most part interdependent, constitute what we know as American industry. The material welfare of our people is in a large ineasure dependent upon the success of E American industry. What is, today, the popular conception of the fundamentals of American industry? Not so many years ago it was the popular belief that the fundamentals of big industry consisted of large aggregations of capital, large numbers of skilled workmen, and keen business guidance. To be sure, the availability of capital, workmen, and keen business guidance are factors of fundamental importance in the scheme of modern industry, but an analysis of American industry reveals another fundamental factor of prime importance which, even now, does not always receive the r.ecognition which i t merits-namely, scientific research. I will venture the assertion that the present-day efficient operation of every important branch of what we consider American industry is founded on the application of the results of scientific research. The point I wish to make is that American industry made use of the results of scientific research long before it ever conceived the idea that it had any responsibility for financing the fundamental research which has made industrial progress possible. * Address delivered at the dinner tendered by Resident Joseph S. Ames to Donors to the National Fellowship Plan of The Johns Hopkins University, April 29, 1932. 2032

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Cooperation between science and industry is not a matter of long standing; even today industry is just awakening to the fact that the financing of fundamental research is justified and is, perhaps, fundamental to the successful continuance of both industry and research. Admitting the premise that American industry is founded on the application of scientific principles which are the result of scientific research-to whom is modem industry indebted for its scientific foundations? Industry, in its beginnings, made no pretense of supporting scientific work; in fact, it looked askance upon any scientific discovery and ridiculed the scientific workers. Yet the early scientists, in the face of incredible handicaps, studied and observed natural phenomena. Men desiring to study the phenomena of nature, and, with what we would call in modern parlance "a scientific bent," journeyed to a few great cities of that day in order that, by living together in the same cities, they might come into contact with one another for discussion and study. This really was the first application of our modem university methods and eventually resulted in the development of those earliest institutions of learning which we now know as universities. Men of a scientific bent began to band themselves together into societies in order to correlate their work, and finally scientific universities were actually established. For many years all the pure science research was carried out in the universities founded under the auspices of these early scientists, and our present-day developments are but extensions of the basic knowledge created in those days. The names of Priestley, Faraday, Liebi$ Wohler, Galvani, Lavoisier, Pastenr, Gibhs, Rowland, for example, are now intimately connected with fundamental knowledge used in many industries, but the industries of their day had little to do with their researches, and had i t not been for the opportunities afforded them to carry on fundamental research work in the scientific universities, these great contributions to knowledge would probably not have been made, a t least not in their day. Research workers in pure science, until the last decade or two, were classed as "dreamers." The executives who controlled the purse strings of industry, the most of them a t any rate, did not even conceive of the truth that a scientific "dreamer" could render a service which would produce anything but an expense item on the balance sheet. But industry was, even then, reaping the rewards of such fundamental scientific research as Faraday's work at the Royal Institution which resulted in the development of the electric generator, and the work of Liebig a t Giessen and the University of Munich upon which the science of agricultural chemistry, as well as the fertilizer industry, is founded. The results of Wohler's researches a t Gottingen have had a profound influence on the development of our inorganic chemicar industry; Schonbein's discovery of guncotton, at the University of Bade, resulted in the establishment of another indus-




try; and the coal-tar dyestuffsindustry, as well as the whole organic chemical industry, is but an extension of the fundamental researches and discoveries of such men as Liebig, Perkin, and Kekule, and many others whose work was all carried out in university laboratories. So I say that it is to these early scientists and to our scientific universities that modem industry is indebted for much of the fundamental scientific knowledge upon which it is founded. It is further true that in later years, in some of our American universities, fundamental research has been carried out which has been of incalculable benefit to industry, but industry has had no part in initiating or financing the original work, except as universities have been endowed by philanthropists of broad vision, who may themselves have accumulated fortunes in industry. The scarcity of opportunities for fundamental..chemical research, even in the time of our own Ira Remsen, is illustrated by his experiences. He was a true scientist, andupon his retnm from Germany about 1872 he sought a position where he might fulfil his life's ambition to carry on pure scientific research. I n Remsen's own words, "there were few such places in America and most of them were filled." He finally secured a position as professor of chemistry and physics at Williams College, but the opportunities for research in this position were few, most of his duties being confined to the routine work of teaching. Remsen felt t h a t his real opportunity for fundamental research came with the opening of The Johns Hopkins University in 1876, when President Gilman offered him the professorship in chemistry. He says, "President'Gilman's injunction was simply this: 'Do your best work in your own way.' What could be finer? I bought all the apparatus I wanted and all the books I wanted. A simple laboratory was built. I had but three or four students and we went to work. Now I am well aware of the fact that chemistry was not revolutionized as a result of our efforts, but we made a start in a new direction." The significant conclusion to be drawn from the remarks of Remsen, which I have just quoted, is that in 1876-fifty-six years a g 6 n o opportunities for research work existed in American industry. The penetration of science into industry, its progress toward becoming an integral part of industry, took the form of the employment of a chemist or physicist or two after a suitable argnment had been presented to the management that the employment of a specially trained man might be a good gamble. The work of these technologists was restricted t o the solution of problems requiring immediate attention. Their suggestions for anything new, requiring radical changes in processes or equipment were considered highly impractical-at the most their work consisted of the scientific control of existing processes and products, and industry was still in the position of depending upon our scientific institutions to carry on all the fundamental research work.

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As time went on, industry began to realize the benefits of science and became more and more willing to apply science to its problems; that is to say, industry was gradually learning more readily to capitalize the scientific discoveries of the research workers in pure science. Then came the creation of a few industrial research laboratories in which scientific work of a high order was carried on. But what a transformation the application of this scientific research has wrought in American industry. Literally thrust upon industry fifty years ago, i t has entirely revolutionized our whole industrial set-up, and today it is a factor so fnndamental to the successful operation of American industry that i t is common knowledge that the industrial concern which pays the most attention to its research activities is the most likely to pay the best return on its invested capital. There are today no less than sixteen hundred industrial laboratories, large and small, busily engaged in connection with the' application of science to the problems of the particular industries which they serve. I shall not stultify the intelligence of this select audience by attempting any detailed recitation of the facts concerning the amazing progress which has resulted from the acceptance of science as a regular employee of industry. Suffice it to say that the leaders of industry today are convinced of the fundamental importance of research. For the most part, however, the research which has been carried out by industry has been applied research. By applied research I mean research directed toward specific products and processes in industry. The importance of applied research will not diminish, for i t has been through the aid of applied research, utilizing the background opfundamental knowledge, that industry has reached its present high state of development. But that background of fundamental knowledge must be further increased and enlarged if our present rate of progress is to be maintained. For this reason the need for fundamental research is becoming increasingly apparent. Fundamental research, as compared with applied research, is characterized by its freedom from restriction, both as to aim and method. This sort of work is undertaken with the object of establishing or discovering new scientific facts. It is thus distinguished from what may be called applied research, which applies previously established scientific facts to the solution of practical problems. The problem which presents itself to the management of our industrial concerns in connection with fundamental research is that of effectively conducting it. I t is true that while the larger industrial concerns can afford to employ men of advanced training and furnish the highly specialized apparatus and equipment which is often required, the smaller concerns are not in a position to finance such an undertaking, in view of the uncertainties involved. A few of the larger industrial concerns have inaugurated programs of fundamental research as a part of their research activities, but




for the most part all pure science research, even today, is carried out in the laboratories of our universities. A great many of our universities are equipped with the facilities for carrying on pure science research and a limited number of truly researchminded masters are available to direct this research. The progress of the search for new scientific truths in university laboratories thus equipped is impeded as much by the paucity of properly trained personnel as by any other single factor, not even excluding the availability of sufficient funds. But the availability of a sufficient number of adequately trained researchers turns upon the opportunity for the acquirement of such training. This has resulted in cooperation between certain industries and universities in connection with the selection of a curriculum designed to yield the desired training, and in many instances industry has further coijperated by making available funds in the form of fellowships and scholarships for advanced research work in our universities. For a period of thirteen years since 1918, the du Pont Company has coijperated with our universities for the purpose of advancing fundamental research and for the purpose of developing and training personnel, primarily to promote the advancement of science. The du Pant Plan has also had in mind the encouragement of young men to continue their research work by making available unrestricted fellowships so far as the choice of subject for research is concerned. It is in this latter respect that the du Pont Fellowships have differed from many industrial fellowships, since the researches carried o h by du Pant Fellows have not been restricted to subjects directly connectedwith du Pont industries. From 1918to November 1, 1931, two hundred ninety-eight fellowships and thirtyeight scholarships have been awarded to thirty-one institutions of learning a t a total cost of $235,850.00. For the academic year 1932-33, twenty-six fellowships and two scholarships, distributed among twenty-four different universities, have been authorized. In addition, the Company is sponsoring a National Fellowship a t Johns Hopkins for a four-year period at a cost of $1000.00 per year. I t is my feeling that industry has been prone to place too much emphasis on applied research at the expense of fundamental research, and, even today, in industry the proper balance has perhaps not been struck between these two branches of research work. Now the factor of research in industry, to be effective, must function continuously. Spasmodic efforts are expensive and the rewards of research are not reaped from such a program. In order to insure the continuity of research work, a broad appreciation of the fundamental importance of this type of work is required on the part of the management. Then, too, the continuous selection and training of the personnel to carry on research work is one of the first requirements to insure the results to be ex-

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pected from a continuous program of research, and this phase of the problem involves cooperation by our scientific universities. The question as to the justification for research expenditures in periods of business depression and reduced earnings is one which looms large in the minds of the business leaders responsible for the finances of industry. Although it has become necessary in these times of economic stress for the managers of industry to prune expenses severely, i t is gratifying to note that the pruning shears of industry, in a great many instances, have cut their research forces sparingly, as live branches which they believe will bear fruit. In this connection 1.should like t o quote from an address by F. B. Jewett before the American Petroleum Institute on "The Place of Research in Industry" as follows:

. . . . . . . . . . . The research laboratory has proven itself time and again to be the saving factor in what might otherwise have been a very unpleasant situation. So i t is that in times like the present a great many industries regard their research laboratories as the last place in which to apply economies through cuts of one sort or another. In my own industry, which has suffered with other industries during these past couple of years through a recession of business, we have held steadfastly to the idea that we must in every way possible avoid doing anything which will curtail the ability of our research organization to function a t maximum capacity. Such a point of view on our part, and which is merely the outgrowth of past experience, does not mean that we have continued to expand our research department; nor does it mean that we are continuing unchanged our consideration of the same kind of problems that we were concerned d t h two or three years ago. What it does mean is that we are doing evetything we can to avoid losing any of our trained scientific personnel, and that we are doing everything we can to transfer their activities from the problems of an expanding business period to the type of problems which will most directly benefit our situation in these depressed times or most surely benefit us in the years ahead when, as we all hope, the sun of prosperity will again be shining. While none can of course say what the future has in store, or what the inexorable forces of unforeseen situations may compel us to do, I can only say that so far we have been successful in holding the situation without any cut in our research personnel. It has appeared that one of the characteristics of industry is the violent upheaval which i t undergoes a t almost regular intervals. For the past two years industry has been suffering under the blight of an unusually severe economic depression. The causes of this depression are in part understood, but the remedy is less well understood. The assistance of leaders skilled and experienced in industrial management has been enlisted to a greater degree, probably, than ever before in order to restore economic balance and prevent industrial chaos.




What about the factor of research? What part does i t play in an economic situation such as the present one, and what should be the attitude of industrial management toward research a t such a time? Some otherwise well-informed people, in attempting to analyze the cause of the depression, have pointed an accusing finger a t science. The claim is made that the intense application of science to our industries has caused a great deal of what has been termed "technological unemployment." The proponents of the theory that technological unemployment is responsible in a large measure for our economic ills would have us believe that there is a line of demarcation which should be drawn at the point where the benefits of science are eclipsed by the evils of unemployment which result from the application of science to industry. I t is true that the mechanization of industry has caused temporary adjustments in employment from time to time, but it is safe to say that the causes of the present widespread unemployment situation are by no means the culmination of a series of scientific developments. I have said that the availability of large numbers of workmen is a fundamental factor in the operation of American industry and I have also said that chemical research is a fundamental factor, and these two fundamental factors do not work a t cross purposes. The welfare of the American workman has never been jeopardized by the application of chemical research to American industry. On the contrary, the new industries that have resulted from chemical research have created employment for large numbers of all types of workmen. I have in mind the development of such industries as the dye industry, the rayon and Cellophane industries, the modern paint and varnish Bnd lacquer industries, the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, the petroleum industry, the synthetic resin industry, the rubber industry; and the science of chemistry has had much to do with the many developments in the automobile industry, the electrical industry, the steel industry, the food-packing and preserving industry, and a long list of other American industries, the scientific development of which has created such a vast number of new jobs. The depressed conditions existing in American industry today are due to the operation of certain economic laws, the same laws that have caused previous depressions; and while the accusation of science as a contributing factor to these depressions is not new, we have records of very serious business relapses which occurred long before any one thought of applied science as a possible cause. The belief, which has gained some prevalence, that applied science is a chief contributor to the present economic depression is, of course, quite unfounded. There is no line of demarcation where the benefits of science become eclipsed by the evils produced by science. To suggest that the momentum of our efforts in scientific research be slackened as an economic measure for the benefit of industry and its workmen is to suggest retrogression. The strongest weapon against the forces

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of economic depression a t the disposal of American industry is research. Let us not become hewildwed by our temporary economic plight, for we are just now on the threshold of a new era of progress which will be based on scientific research, provided such destructive forces as national extravagance engendered by selfish political blocs, international envy, hate, suspicion, and covetousness can be curbed. There is, fortunately, some reason to hope that the too-free distribution of the national wealth upon nonproductive expenditures, and the multiplication of municipal and state and federal bureaucratic expenditures are beginning to he recognized as a great, nation-wide menace. Not merely municipal bankruptcy, but national, can grow out of the continued effort to support a vast host upon the efforts of the fraction of the population actually engaged in the creation of new goods through manufacture and agriculture. Chemical research is one of the factors in American industry which can most be counted upon, through the development of new processes and new products, new demands and new industries, to create much more new employment in the future. This chemical research, before it takes the form of industrial or applied research, has its roots in fundamental research. A. C. Langmuir, in connection with the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry, initiated by him, recently expressed himself as follows: Within recent years there has been a tendency for the industrial laboratory and government laboratories and privately endowed laboratories to draw research men fro,m the universities so rapidly that it tends to weaken the research work done in universities; yet all these laboratories must ultimately depen&pon the universities for their men whom they wish to find already trained for research. In the universities the men capable of doing research already receive too many inducements to undertake technical problems. Fundamental research is usually undertaken through the initiative of the individual. One of the greatest services to mankind rendered by a university with proper research ideals is that of inspiring a young man to devote his life to fundamental research. Very often this takes the form of the incubation of the thought in the young man's mind by contact with the master of research with whom the young man happens to be associated in the relation of student and teacher. My wish for Johns Hopkins University is that this splendid university, founded upon the traditions of research, and inspired by the examples of great research workers, shall continue to develop among hex young research workers, men willing and able to carry on her research traditions. If this wish shall be realized, new fundamental discoveries from her research laboratories will serve not only to add new luster to her reputation, but will also contribute to the amelioration of the health and living conditions of humanity.