Video History of the MIT Chemistry Department

In preparation are a series of video interviews of current and former members of the department providing a glimpse of what it was like to work and study at MIT and in the Department of Chemistry in decades past.

Video Interviews with Professors Frederick Greene and Dietmar Seyferth

In a collection of interviews that took place in 2018 and 2019, A.C. Cope Professor of Chemistry Rick Danheiser sat down with Professors Emeritus Frederick Greene and Dietmar Seyferth and discussed what MIT and the Department of Chemistry were like in the 1950s and 1960s. Each of the conversations ranged over a variety of topics, but summarized below are some of the main subjects discussed in each segment.

Teaser Trailer


Part One

Professors Greene and Seyferth describe how they were hired by Department Head Arthur C. Cope (in 1953 and 1957, respectively) and talk about members of the Chemistry Faculty in the early and mid-1950s.

Watch Part One

Part Two

In this segment we talk about the organization of the Chemistry Department administration and the location of Chemistry Department space during the 1950s.  Professors Greene and Seyferth continue to discuss notable members of the department including physical chemists.  The undergraduate chemistry general institute requirement.

Watch Part Two

Part Three

This segment focuses on the organic and inorganic chemistry faculty members and their laboratories.  The construction and move of labs to the Dreyfus Building is discussed.

Watch Part Three

Part Four

The expansion of inorganic chemistry in the department is discussed, as well as developments in organic chemistry (with regard to both research and teaching) during the 1960s.

Watch Part Four

Part Five

Evolution of the graduate program during the 1950s and 1960s – recruiting students, group selection, requirements.  More on organic and inorganic faculty members, and the appointment of John Ross as Department Head.

Watch Part Five

Part Six

Chemistry Department facilities – stockrooms, glass-blowing, machine shop, spectroscopy facilities.  More on teaching.  Major changes in Kendall Square and new construction at MIT.  The increased attention to biological chemistry in the department and the decline of analytical and nuclear chemistry.

Watch Part Six