James Franklin Hyde - Hall of Fame Entry
Author: Plastics Academy Staff
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James Franklin Hyde
Carried out the first successful research leading to commercial production of silicones. Was a leader in fundamental as well as practical research in the field of organosilicon compounds.
To the employees of Dow Corning Corporation, which was his laboratory and home base for more than 40 years, Dr. Hyde is recognized as the "Father of Industrial Silicone Chemistry" and designer of the Chemical Elements Periodic Table.
In 1931, Dr. Hyde became the first organic chemist to be employed by Corning Glass Works. His assignment was to see what might be done by the glass industry to meet the challenge imposed by the newly introduced transparent plastics. This led him to review the early work done by Ladenburg and Kipping in the field of hybridizing silicon and organic chemistry. His invention of an organosilicon resin as a substitute for organic varnishes in the electrical industry was the first step, which led progressively to several hundred useful products having unusual physical properties.
Coming just before World War II, silicone resins, rubbers, greases, and fluids contributed immediately to extending the serviceability and range of ships and planes, and in so doing saved many lives. Silicones play an increasingly greater role in the design of space-age equipment.
Throughout his career, Dr. Hyde's fundamental research has habitually opened up new areas of practical application. He demonstrated new concepts of polymerization and depolymerization of linear polymers and laid the foundation for the present process in silicone high polymer production. He later formulated a silicone rubber that would vulcanize at room temperature. The rubber is now used in such diverse applications as dental-impression materials, encapsulation of electronic equipment, and caulking compounds for windows and bathtubs.
Medical applications for silicones developed by Dr. Hyde embrace the entire body, from the molding of prosthetic heart valves to repairing detached retinas.
Dr. Hyde was born in Solvay, NY, in 1903. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees at Syracuse University. At the University of Illinois, he earned a PhD in organic chemistry. He then achieved a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University under Dr. James Bryant Conant.
Dr. Hyde's career with the Dow Corning Corporation spans four decades. From his initial post as a research chemist, he next became manager of the Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory, a position he held from 1938 to 1951. From 1951 until his retirement in 1973, Dr. Hyde was senior research scientist for basic organosilicon chemistry. He then became a research consultant to Dow Corning.
Among the many honors bestowed on Dr. Hyde are Doctor of Science (Honorary), Syracuse University; Perkin Medal, awarded by the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry (United Kingdom); and the J.B. Whitehead Award from the National Academy of Sciences.