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This is the seventh volume in the series of Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased.
WRITTEN BY GERARD LAVIN, JOE T. RIVERS, JOHN R. SCHAEFGEN, AND STEPHANIEL. KWOLEK
SUBMITTED BY THE NAE HOME SECRETARY
PAUL WAS KNOWN by his colleagues as a consummate experimentalist. Through his pioneering work in polymer synthesis he created synthetic methods, which led to new classes of polymers, which have touched the lives of most of us. At the same time, he remained true to the hardy values of his Maine upbringing, and to the end of his life he delighted in sharing his learnings with others.
Paul Winthrop Morgan was born on August 30, 1911, in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire. He spent most of his youth in Thomaston, Maine, a place to which he returned frequently throughout his lifetime. He obtained his B.S. in chemistry from the College of Technology of the University of Maine in 1937 and started work on his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the Ohio State University. His studies were interrupted from time to time by the need to earn money to pay for his education. While working in a store in Thomaston he met his future bride, Elsie Bridges. They were married in 1939. He earned his Ph.D. in 1940 and remained at Ohio State as the DuPont postdoctoral fellow in cellulose chemistry until 1941, when he joined E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company in Buffalo, New York.
The two outstanding accomplishments of Paul Morgan's work were the laying of a synthetic foundation for the development of a host of advanced materials, and the provision of synthetic methods and well-characterized polymers, which stimulated scientific research worldwide, especially in the area of extended-chain liquid crystalline polymers. He made it easy for students and teachers to make condensation polymers; his nylon rope trick is one of the most popular and effective demonstrations available in the classroom. Condensation polymers became as accessible as vinyl polymers for the research scientist in academia; the nonequilibrium nature of the polycondensation reaction made many novel linear, branched, and cross-linked polymers, and block and graft type copolymers of predetermined structure available for scientific study. The whole new field of extended-chain liquid crystalline polymers was opened. The very fact that he made many heretofore intractable polymers and processed them to valuable new advanced materials, e.g., Kevlar aramid fiber, inspired industrial scientists worldwide to invent and synthesize many new advanced materials, such as polycarbonates, polyarylates, polyimides, and thermoplastic elastomers for fibers, films, engineering resins, and polymers for electrical and electronic applications.
His contributions to synthetic polymer chemistry and their impact on materials science have been compared to Ziegler-Natta polyolefin synthesis in importance and potential. Writing in High Polymers (Japan) in 1973, K. Tsubol describes Morgan's interfacial methods and their application to synthetic fibers as an ''epoch-making discovery." The late Paul Flory, Nobel laureate in chemistry, wrote of Morgan in 1975: "His discovery and development of the interfacial method of low temperature condensation polymerization stands out as one of the most important achievements in synthetic polymer chemistry of the past quarter century…. It is becoming increasingly clear that Morgan has opened up a domain of polymer science (his work on stiff-chain liquid crystalline polymers such as para-aramids) of vast importance that may be surpassed only by stereospecific polymerization…. In brief, Paul Morgan's research is characterized by an extraordinary degree of originality. He has advanced both fundamental polymer chemistry and technological development, the two in concert to a degree scarcely to be found in the work of any scientist since Wallace H. Carothers…. Dr. Morgan's contributions in either of the two major fields cited above are sufficient to merit the highest recognition. In combination, they are superlative."
Paul's published work includes thirty-eight U.S. patents, fifty-six articles, and a book, Condensation Polymers by Interfacial and Solution Methods. He was honored by many awards, which included DuPont's Lavoisier Medal, the American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry, the Howard N. Potts Medal of the Franklin Institute, the Engineering Materials Achievement Award of the American Society for Metals (awarded to DuPont), the Swinburne Award of the Plastics and Rubber Institute of Great Britain, the Thomas Midgley Award for contributions to the automobile industry from the Detroit Section of the American Chemical Society, and the University of Delaware Composites Institute Medal of Excellence in Composites. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977.
The list of organizations to which Paul belonged included the Sierra Club, the Appalachian Trail Conference, the Wilderness Society, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the Chester County Historical Society, the Early American Industries Association, the National Fiber Society, and the National Academy of Engineering. Apart from his career as a scientist, his principal activity was a lifelong interest in the Boy Scouts of America. As a youth and young man in Maine during the 1920s, he held all positions of junior leadership and served two years as an assistant scoutmaster. As a young father in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1954 he resumed his Scouting career by helping to organize a neighborhood Cub pack.
He successively became troop committeeman, assistant district commissioner for Cub Scouting, assistant scoutmaster, brotherhood member, and adult adviser in the Order of the Arrow. His Scouting awards included the Scouter's Training Award, Scouter's Key as Commissioner, District Order of Merit, and the Wood Badge Award (this is the Scouting Ph.D.). He helped establish an Explorer post at the DuPont Company and helped establish the Brandywine Battlefield Medal Trail—leading men and Scouts of Troop 43 in clearing and marking trails. Over the years he acted as a merit badge councillor and examiner for numerous subjects. Perhaps his greatest reward in Scouting was organizing and leading yearly back country camping trips to Baxter State Park in Maine. These were very demanding excursions with the objective of learning advanced survival skills. This led Paul to become an authority on edible wild plants, an interest that he pursued with his usual thoroughness and that he shared with his Scouts. In 1967 the Scouting community recognized his achievements with one of its highest awards, the Silver Beaver.
Along the way Paul resumed a youthful interest in mineralogy. With characteristic intensity he hunted for rocks wherever he vacationed, became a member and ultimately vice-president of the Mineralogical Society of Pennsylvania, and built an extensive, carefully catalogued personal collection. His daughter, Mrs. William Harding, donated the collection to West Chester University, where it has been integrated into the university's geological museum.
Another of Paul's interests was the history and collection of tools. He specialized in the development of saw sets. His ambition was to have a specimen of every commercial saw set that had been manufactured in the United States, and he came very close to achieving this goal. He set and sharpened the tools himself and he collected patent literature. From his father, who was a shipwright, Paul inherited many skills and a very practical collection of relevant tools—large wood bits with massive crossbar handles, large chisels, adzes, saws, clamps, etc. He built up the tool collection by judicious addition through his lifetime.
Paul Morgan died at age eighty on May 28, 1992, following a lengthy illness. He will be remembered for his willingness and skill to teach colleagues, friends, and neighbors of all ages the many things he had learned and for imparting in some measure his joy in scholarship.