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Joseph Gordon, II

Research chemist and research manager Joseph Grover Gordon, II, was born on December 25, 1945 in Nashville, Tennessee to Joseph Grover, Sr. Juanita Elizabeth (Tarlton) Gordon. He is one of four children, including Eric Rodney, Craig Stephen, and Rhea Juanita. After briefly attending Atkins High School in North Carolina, Gordon went on to graduate from the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in 1963. Gordon earned his A.B. degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard College in 1966. He received his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970.

After finishing his graduate education, Gordon worked at the California Institute of Technology as an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department. In 1975, he began working as a research staff member at Almaden Research Center (IBM Research) and was promoted to interfacial electrochemistry manager in IBM’s Applied Materials Division in 1990. There, Gordon managed a research staff team and contributed greatly to the fields of materials science and electrochemistry. Between 1975 and 1994, Gordon established a program in fundamental electrochemistry that developed solid: liquid interface. From 2004 to 2009 Gordon Developed an exploratory battery materials research program and evaluated new battery technology for ThinkPad strategic planning in Raleigh, North Carolina and development in Yamato, Japan. In 2009, Gordon was hired as the senior director for the advanced technology group in at Applied Materials, Inc. Throughout his career, Gordon has published numerous research papers in leading scientific journals, such as Physical Review Letters and Sensors and Actuators A: Physical.

Gordon is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Chemical Society, Society for Analytical Chemistry, Electrochemical Society, and the National Research Council. Throughout his career, Gordon has shown a continued commitment to scientific research and has credited with twelve United States Patents. Gordon has been recognized many times for his work. In 1993, he was awarded the Black Engineer for Outstanding technical Achievement, and in 1993 the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers awarded Gordon the Percy L. Julian Award. Gordon and his wife, Ruth M., reside in San Jose, California.
Joseph G. Gordon, II was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 7, 2012.

Joseph Gordon passed away on September 13, 2013.

Accession Number

A2012.242

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/8/2012

Last Name

Gordon

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Grover

Occupation
Schools

St. Vincent de Moor

Fort Bragg Elementary School

St. Benedict The Moor

Phillips Exeter Academy

Exeter Community Day School

Harvard University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Atkins Academic and Technology High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Nashville

HM ID

GOR03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere With Friends

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/25/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Jose

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Black-Eyed peas

Death Date

9/13/2013

Short Description

Chemist Joseph Gordon, II (1945 - 2013 ) is credited with twelve United States patents for developing solid liquid interface technologies and the battery materials research programs for IBM ThinkPad computers.

Employment

California Institute of Technology

Almaden Research Center (IBM Research)

Applied Materials (Firm)

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joseph Gordon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joseph Gordon lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joseph Gordon describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joseph Gordon talks about his mother's growing up in Sumter, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joseph Gordon describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joseph Gordon talks about his father's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joseph Gordon talks about his early childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joseph Gordon describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joseph Gordon describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joseph Gordon describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joseph Gordon talks about growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joseph Gordon talks about the integration of the medical societies

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joseph Gordon talks about his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joseph Gordon talks about his early interest in science

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joseph Gordon talks about his elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joseph Gordon talks about his memories of the Civil Rights Era

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joseph Gordon talks about his grade school and his family's religious background

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joseph Gordon talks about his experience at Phillips Exeter Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joseph Gordon talks about his peers at Phillips Exeter Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joseph Gordon talks about his social life at Phillips Exeter Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joseph Gordon talks about his decision to attend Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joseph Gordon discusses his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joseph Gordon talks about his advisors at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joseph Gordon talks about his decision to pursue a career in chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joseph Gordon summarizes his experience at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joseph Gordon talks about living in France

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joseph Gordon talks about his professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Joseph Gordon describes his dissertation

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Joseph Gordon talks about his pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Joseph Gordon talks about his post-doctoral employment opportunities

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joseph Gordon talks about notable people at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joseph Gordon compares his experiences at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joseph Gordon talks about his experience at the California Institute of Technology

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joseph Gordon talks about electrochemistry and his work at IBM

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joseph Gordon talks about his professional awards

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joseph Gordon talks about his professional activities and awards

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joseph Gordon talks about the significance of NOBCChE

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joseph Gordon talks about his racial ambiguity

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joseph Gordon talks about his professional activities

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joseph Gordon talks about his career transition into more managerial roles

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joseph Gordon describes his technological contributions at IBM

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joseph Gordon talks about his career at Applied Materials Incorporated

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joseph Gordon reflects on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joseph Gordon talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joseph Gordon reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joseph Gordon talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joseph Gordon talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Joseph Gordon describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Joseph Gordon talks about growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Joseph Gordon describes his technological contributions at IBM
Transcript
Okay, we were talking about sights and sounds and smells. Now, Winston-Salem [North Carolina] has a pretty active black community there. Did you live in, I mean what was, how was Winston-Salem situated? I mean what--$$Okay, yeah, actually, it was a characteristic smell there every year. It was cured tobacco. And we actually used to put the stalks on the lawn for fertilizer. So the whole place smelled of, actually, it's a quite nice smell, I think, of, curing and cured tobacco. Winston-Salem at the time was about, slightly less than 50 percent black. It was, it was, quite physically divided. We lived in East Winston, which was the black part of town. We built a house on a, you know, in a circle [sic, cul-de-sac] at the end of 14th, 14th Avenue. The neighborhood was quite mixed. So in our circle, we had, the guy up the street from us was a, was a barber, next door was a physician, next door to him was a, were two college professors who taught at Winston-Salem, but TC at the time, now Winston-Salem State. There was a high school teacher, another high school teacher, a high school football and tennis coach, the high school music teacher and the elementary school music teacher. And then up the street further, you know, there were people who were, you know, there were a couple of policemen, you know, other--I'm not quite sure exactly what jobs, but they had nonprofessional jobs, the head of the [National] Urban League lived on the street, and it was, it was actually a fairly, fairly mixed sort of, sort of neighborhood, which was characteristic I think of black neighborhoods at the time. You couldn't, there wasn't enough space to have isolated, actually, you know, only professional people in one, in one area. And so we were able to walk to the school. We went to a Catholic school, and I was able to walk to high school. There was one black high school in town, one city high school and there was a county, black county high school.$Okay, okay, now, some place within your career at IBM, didn't you do something, didn't you develop a new battery or something for--$$Okay, yes, during this, about the same time, in early 2000, well, since 1990 I had been working on, with the "Think Pad" division on lithium ion batteries. And in the early, mid-'90's [1990s]--I'd have to go back and figure out the dates now, I had a small group that I actually was trying to develop a new lithium ion battery for, for portable electronics. After a while though, it became obvious, when I put together several business plans, that IBM wasn't interested in making batteries. So we, we stopped that effort also. But it turned out that the "Think Pad" people still needed technical assistance in setting standards for, for safety, the qualification standards, and there're a whole stream of new technologies coming on, and they needed somebody to help them evaluate the new technologies. So I stayed involved in that for a while. And then in the, around 2002, '03' [2003], there were a series of laptop fires that were quite publicized. And so all of the laptop companies then put together groups to investigate the cause. So every single incident was investigated. And I was the technical person for the IBM incident team who worked with the engineers in development and with outside consultants to do a failure analysis on each incident so we actually knew what was going on and could feed back to the battery manufacturer that they needed to correct some part of the manufacturing process. So that was a pretty intense operation for about, for two or two and a half years. Yeah, one year I remember I spent more than a 180 days in hotels, traveling to various places to perform the analyses.$$Now, that's between 2003 and 2005?$$I think, I think that was the time. I'd have to go back and look and--$$I remember the incidents, yeah, an Apple computer battery caught fire--$$Yeah, it caught fire at some conference--$$Yeah, and blew, yeah.$$--yeah, right, okay. And every time there was even a report of something at an IBM thing, we'd go and investigate it, whether it got into the news or not. And I also, at that stage helped with the, what series is it? I think it's the T-40 series. We put in a number of improvements in that battery pack to help reduce the severity of a failure of an individual cell, okay. And several people at research were involved in, in helping with that and to getting these things and doing simulations, doing calculations, doing experiments.$$So if it did get hot enough, it wouldn't actually flame up or something?$$Right, yes, so it wouldn't catch fire, and it wouldn't set off an adjacent cell. If you have a single-cell failure, that's usually not real serious. The big incidents happen when you have one cell set off another cell, sets off another cell. And you get all six or all nine go off.$$Okay, all right, now, but, okay, so--$$Yeah, so that actually took a lot of time. I was actually, at that time I was also the second-line manager. So that was a pretty, that was a pretty, how do I say it--fully occupied my time for a while.$$Hectic time, I guess.$$Very hectic, that's the word I'm looking for (laughter).