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Interview with Aron Kuppermann

Kuppermann, Aron (2012) Interview with Aron Kuppermann. [Oral History]

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Interview in five sessions (July-November 2001) with Aron Kuppermann, professor of chemistry, Caltech. Kuppermann, born in São Paulo, Brazil, discusses his family, childhood in New York City and São Paulo, and education. Degree in chemical engineering in 1948 and in civil engineering in 1952 from Escola Politecnica at the University of São Paulo. Joins faculty at Instituto Tecnólogico de Aeronáutica in São José dos Campos. Takes physics classes and first course in quantum mechanics with David Bohm. Marries Roza. Fellowship for study in theoretical chemistry and radiochemistry at the University of Edinburgh (1953), followed by graduate work at University of Notre Dame (with Milton Burton); PhD, 1955. Hired as assistant professor of chemistry at University of Illinois, Urbana; research into measuring triplet states of molecules; unimolecular decomposition processes; use of digital computer ILLIAC 1; calculating electronic properties of molecules (with Martin Karplus). Joins Caltech faculty in physical chemistry, 1963. At Caltech oversees installation of new molecular beam machine brought from Illinois. Discussion of construction of Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory for Chemical Physics and the chemistry division faculty from his early years: W. Robinson, H. Gray, J. H. Sturdivant, S. Chan, R. Badger, R. Pitzer, W. Goddard and B. V. McKoy. First classes in undergraduate physical chemistry and graduate course in statistical mechanics. First sabbatical (1968) spent at Weizmann Institute in Israel and FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam. Upon return, research focused on quantum mechanical theory of chemical reactions. Granted use of big computer at Ambassador College with George Schatz. Experiments in electron scattering and mono-energetic reactions photoelectron spectroscopy. Interest develops in a more theoretical approach to problem solving. Discusses extensive committee work and civic interests. Discusses involvement in joint American-Brazilian program, started by Carl Djerassi of Stanford, to encourage chemistry research in Brazil (1969-77). Consultant to World Bank loan projects for scientific laboratories in Brazil and, later, China and Mexico. Guest professor at Shandong University (1984). Executive board member of National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure. Thirty-year involvement with Villa Esperanza, after daughter Sharon was born with Down syndrome. Talks about sociological changes at the institute. Students who are leaders in the field of quantum reaction dynamics: D. Truhlar, G. Schatz, and J. Bowman; plus J. Kaye at NASA. Philosophy about sabbaticals in aiding his scientific activity.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Chemistry, chemical physics
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Kuppermann_A
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kuppermann, Aron. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, July 17 and 24, September 13 and 25, and November 15, 2001. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Chemistry
ID Code:208
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:28 Nov 2012 23:05
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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