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Linneaus Dorman

Organic chemist and inventor Linneaus C. Dorman was born on June 28, 1935 in Orangeburg, South Carolina to schoolteachers John Albert Dorman, Sr. and Georgia Hammond. Raised in the Jim Crow South, Dorman’s parents sent him to the historically black South Carolina State College laboratory school. The state college afforded him a better education than he would have received otherwise and nurtured his nascent interest in science. As a child, Dorman became fascinated with his friend’s chemistry set and the idea of creating new things. When he entered Wilkinson High School in 1948, his teachers immediately recognized his natural talent in science and encouraged him to take more science courses. This led him to declare chemistry as his undergraduate major after he graduated from high school.

In the fall of 1952, Dorman enrolled at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Because his father was a World War I veteran, having served in France, Dorman received a scholarship from the small, private institution and its scholarship program for the children of World War I veterans. After receiving his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1956, Dorman enrolled in the organic chemistry Ph.D. program at Indiana University. During the summers, he traveled back to Peoria, where he gained invaluable research experience as a chemist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the Northern Regional Research Laboratory. In 1961, he earned his Ph.D. degree and took a position as a research chemist at the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan.

While Dorman has garnered a reputation for publishing many research articles in premier research journals, he has become most known for creating over twenty inventions and patents in organic chemistry and biomaterials. Many of his earliest patents involve synthesis methods in organic chemistry. In 1985, he invented a chemical compound that functioned as an absorbent that removed formaldehyde from the air. In 1992, Dorman invented a calcium phosphate biomaterial that was used in hard tissue prosthetics such as bone prosthetics in 1992. Between 1992 and 1993, he developed a new process for the controlled release of herbicides, this method became critical to crop rotation.

He joined the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1957 and served in a number of administrative positions such as secretary, councilor, and director. Named Inventor of the Year by Dow Chemical Company in 1983, Dorman has been credited with over twenty inventions and patents in organic chemistry and biomaterials. He received the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers’ most prestigious award, the Percy C. Julian Award in 1992. Although he retired in 1994, Dorman continues to work in the scientific community as a mentor. He and his wife, Phae, live in Michigan and have two children, Evelyn and John.

Linneaus Dorman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 24, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.174

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/24/2012

Last Name

Dorman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

C.

Occupation
Schools

Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School

Bradley University

Indiana University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Linneaus

Birth City, State, Country

Orangeburg

HM ID

DOR06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

South Carolina

Favorite Quote

I will study and prepare myself, then maybe, my chance will come.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/28/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Midland

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Watermelon

Short Description

Chemist Linneaus Dorman (1935 - ) has twenty-six inventions and patents in organic chemistry and biomaterials. He also served as a research chemist at the Dow Chemical Company.

Employment

Dow Chemical Company

Northern Regional Research Laboratory

Comerica Bank

Dow Corning

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Linneaus Dorman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Linneaus Dorman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Linneaus Dorman describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Linneaus Dorman describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Linneaus Dorman talks about his father's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Linneaus Dorman talks about his parents and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Linneaus Dorman describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Linneaus Dorman describes the neighborhood where he grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Linneaus Dorman describes the sights and sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Linneaus Dorman describes growing up in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Linneaus Dorman describes his elementary school experience at Middle Branch School and Felton Training School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Linneaus Dorman shares his childhood memories of World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Linneaus Dorman describes his introduction to chemistry and his early interest in mathematics

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Linneaus Dorman talks about the prominent speakers who visited South Carolina State College

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Linneaus Dorman talks about the first African American chemists

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Linneaus Dorman describes how his early thoughts about segregation served as a motivating force

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Linneaus Dorman describes his decision to attend Bradley University in 1952

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Linneaus Dorman describes his experience as a busboy at Carter Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Linneaus Dorman talks about the founder of Dow Chemical Company

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Linneaus Dorman describes the differences between the black communities in Orangeburg, South Carolina and in Peoria, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Linneaus Dorman describes how he met his wife, Thae

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Linneaus Dorman talks about Robert Lawrence, Jr. at Bradley University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Linneaus Dorman describes what influenced him to attend graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Linneaus Dorman talks about Robert Lawrence, Jr.'s death and his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Linneaus Dorman describes his extracurricular activities at Bradley University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Linneaus Dorman describes his experience as a doctoral student in the chemistry department at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Linneaus Dorman talks about getting married and starting a family while in graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Linneaus Dorman describes his summer research experience at the Northern Regional Research Laboratory

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Linneaus Dorman describes his work for his Ph.D. dissertation on heterocyclic compounds

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Linneaus Dorman describes his decision to work at Dow Chemical in Midland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Linneaus Dorman describes his experience in Midland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Linneaus Dorman describes his early work on pharmaceutical compounds

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Linneaus Dorman describes his work on synthesizing artificial bone material

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Linneaus Dorman describes thermoplastic elastomers

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Linneaus Dorman talks about Percy Julian, one of the first African American research chemists

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Linneaus Dorman talks about his activities in the community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Linneaus Dorman talks about travel

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Linneaus Dorman describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Linneaus Dorman talks about the importance of documentation and communication at the workplace

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Linneaus Dorman reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Linneaus Dorman talks about his children

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Linneaus Dorman describes how he dealt with the frustrations of science

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Linneaus Dorman describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Linneaus Dorman describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
Linneaus Dorman describes his decision to work at Dow Chemical in Midland, Ohio
Linneaus Dorman describes his early work on pharmaceutical compounds
Transcript
All right, also in our outline, it mentions here that you considered at one time teaching for a historically black college?$$Yes. But I, something told me I didn't wanna teach because that's what so many of my friends and relatives had done, not because they wanted to, but that was the only job open to them. So I wanted to do something other than teach.$$Now, did you believe that Dow [Chemical Company] would hire you?$$At the time?$$Um-hum.$$I didn't think Dow would hire me because some of my friends in graduate school had told me that Dow would not hire me, because they, some of them who had gone, who worked at Dow, (unclear) come back to Indiana University [in Bloomington, Indiana] to do further study, they told me that Dow would not hire me. But I went up to, to the Dow interview because I had a Dow fellowship. And I felt out of respect for the department [of chemistry], I should at least go up for the interview. Well, it turns out that Dow was desperately trying to get a black person, preferably one who had a Ph.D. who could come to work and be standing on your foot, on your feet alone, somebody who was strong enough, educated enough to not just be a laboratory worker, but to be an independent laboratory worker. So I discovered the chairman who was eager to hire, to talk to me and try to get me interested in Dow, much to my surprise. And I still didn't think it would happen, and I also got an offer from Ex-, it wasn't Exxon. It was Esso at the time out in Linden, New Jersey. And I thought that was a real possibility because Dow wouldn't, you know, because of the fact that this was an all-white town, Dow wouldn't probably hire me. And I'll never forget, my wife said to me, "Ah, I'll bet you get the job at Dow and not at Exxon." And that, I went out to Exxon and I followed all the people who were, with their heads in the clouds, who were not very sympathetic to a graduating black person. And sure enough, they didn't offer me a job. But Dow, I came out to Dow, and they were all very nice to me, and encouraging to me and recognized that Dow was trying to get blacks to come to work there. And it was encouraging enough that we had to make up our minds whether we were gonna take a chance on living in an all-white community. And we took a chance, made up our minds to do that and not stay a while and go someplace else because I could have done that after staying around. My telephone rang for a period of time, almost every six months, some other company wanting me to come, stop Dow and come work for them. They were offering me all kind of incentives. So I got to a point, I asked them what can you do for my retirement? They could never do anything to--I would be giving up those years working for, towards retirement. So that was always a no-no, and I had a feeling that they were trying to hire people just like Dow was trying to hire people. So I said, no, no, no. So I stayed here, and that, we decided to retire and live here. And we're happy with that decision.$Okay, all right. Now, during the course of your career, your research changed focus at different times. In the '60s [1960s] and '70s [1970s], you were focused on, from what I understand, peptides, right?$$Pharmaceutical compounds.$$Okay, and--$$And later to, when I got here, one of the things that Dow [Chemical Company] did was to become involved in the pharma--in some pharmaceutical business, thought it was a good venture because the return on pharmaceuticals is like 20 percent, which chemicals are around 10 percent. So Dow was gonna, Dow was very, always into agricultural compounds, and its agricultural compounds were tested for medicinal chemistry by somebody else. We had something called a K-List which every compound we made, you sent a sample of it, and it got a number, a K-number. And those are, one of the things the K-List did was to check it for various, for biological activities. But that was all agricultural until we got into the chemistry, to the drug business. And I was, just so happened to be in position at that time to also become a part of the drug business by synthesizing compounds here in Midland [Ohio]. We had a pharmaceutical group here in Midland. And, well, they later asked me to get into peptide chemistry because that, that was--peptides are like small proteins, and they were becoming more, more prominent because there's a guy by the name of Muirfield who devised a way to make peptides using a solid phase that would cut out a lot of the steps involved in make a peptide. Peptides are made from about twenty-five amino acids in different combinations, but to make a simple peptide, di-peptide, it's many steps, [to] make a tri-peptide, many more steps. So I became involved in the solid phase peptides chemistry, which I made some contributions to the field when I was doing that. And later on, the pharmaceutical business, we had the group here in town which was a part of the pharmaceutical effort, moved down to Indianapolis [Indiana]. And I didn't move with them, so I started something else. And that was diagnostic, latex diagnostic gauges.$$About what year is this?$$How's that?$$About what year is this when you start with the latex diagnostic gauges?$$Oh, ghez, I don't, '74 [1974]--$$Is this in the '70s [1970s] or--$$It's in the '70s [1970s], yeah.$$Okay, that's good enough.$$And we worked on developing a pregnancy test, and I worked in, in that area for a while. And from there we went to control, control release technologies. And from that to plastics.