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Paul Emmett Papers, 1918-2001

By Finding aid prepared by Special Collections staff.

Collection Overview

Title: Paul Emmett Papers, 1918-2001

ID: MSS Emmett

Primary Creator: Emmett, Paul H. (Paul Hugh) (1900-1985)

Extent: 114.0 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The Emmett Papers are arranged into eight series. Materials in each series are organized either alphabetically, chronologically or by material type, as appropriate.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


Paul Emmett (1900-1985), a friend and colleague of Linus Pauling, graduated in 1922 from Oregon Agricultural College and completed his doctoral work on heterogeneous catalysis at Caltech in 1925. A major figure in the history of catalysis chemistry, Emmett was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955 and worked at a handful of institutions, including The Johns Hopkins University, where he chaired the Chemical Engineering Department until his retirement in 1971. Special Collections houses Emmett's manuscripts, research notebooks, correspondence and awards.

The contents of the following folders have been digitized and are available upon request: Box-folder 1.011.3, 1.019.1, 4.029.6, 4.032.7, 6.005.2, 8.010.12, and 8.011.1 - 3.

Scope and Content Notes

Special Collections houses Dr. Emmett's laboratory notes, research notebooks and published conclusions from various experiments. Also included are his personal and professional correspondence, awards, lecture notes and an extensive collection of personal slides documenting his travels and home life.

The contents of the following folders have been digitized and are available upon request: Box-folder 1.011.3, 1.019.1, 4.029.6, 4.032.7, 6.005.2, 8.010.12, and 8.011.1 - 3.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Paul Hugh Emmett was born in Portland, Oregon, on September 22, 1900. After completing his baccalaureate at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University), Emmett went on to the California Institute of Technology, where he earned his Ph.D. His studies brought him into contact with Drs. A. F. Benton and H. S. Taylor, who encouraged his work on catalysis. He was also a close friend of Linus Pauling at both institutions and, indeed, in 1976 Emmett married Pauling's sister, Pauline.

Dr. Emmett became chair of the Chemical Engineering Department at The Johns Hopkins University in 1937. In 1943 he left the university to join the staff of the Manhattan Project, where he was instrumental in developing a technique for the separation of Uranium-235 from U-238. Following a residency at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, Dr. Emmett returned to Johns Hopkins in 1955, as the W. R. Grace Professor in the Chemistry Department. He was active both nationally and internationally with various chemistry committees and conferences. Dr. Emmett’s contributions include the B.E.T. formula for calculating the surface area of a material from the amount of gas it adsorbs; work with ammonia and iron nitride; and many other detailed experiments.

Emmett retired from Johns Hopkins in 1971. "His 'retirement rocking chair,'" Burtron Davis points out, "was an appointment as research professor in the Chemistry Department at Portland State University, undertaking new research areas such as surface area of soils and the porosity of coals, presenting seminar talks, offering advanced courses in catalysis, consulting at W. R. Grace, Oak Ridge, and Mobil, reviewing manuscripts, publishing 12 papers with students and co-workers, frequent travel to national and international scientific meetings, receiving seven of his distinguished achievement awards, etc." In short, Dr. Emmett remained active up until his death, on April 22, 1985.

Interested readers are referred to Burtron Davis's article on Dr. Emmett in the Journal of Physical Chemistry, Vol. 90, No. 20 (September 25, 1986): 4700-4705.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 233 boxes

Statement on Access: Permission to examine will be granted to qualified researchers upon completion of an "Application for Use" form, and contingent upon the researcher's agreement to abide by the rules and policies governing the use of manuscripts.

Acquisition Note: Accessioned from the Emmett family in July 1987.

Related Materials:

Emmett's contacts with Linus Pauling are further documented in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers (MSS Pauling), Correspondence Box 109. Emmett's undergraduate physical chemistry work at Oregon Agricultural College is likewise detailed by Emmett's instructor Fred Allen in a notebook held in the Pauling Papers Biographical section, Box 1.005.

Emmett biographer Dr. Butron Davis shared aspects of his research on Emmett's life in the video recorded talk "The Useful Science of Paul Emmett," presented April 30, 2009.

See also: A Lifetime of Effor in Caatalytic Research

Preferred Citation: Paul Emmett Papers (MSS Emmett), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Processing Information: Final arrangement by Rachel West, Maarika Teose, Chris Petersen and John Ngo.

Other URL: A preliminary container list was created for this collection on or before November 19, 2015.


Emmett, Paul H. (Paul Hugh) (1900-1985)
Benton, Arthur Ferguson (1895-)
Brunauer, Stephen
Catalysis Society
Davis, Burtron H. (1934-)
Pauling, Linus (1901-1994)
Teller, Edward (1908-2003)

People, Places, and Topics

California Institute of Technology. Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Catalysis--Industrial applications.
Catalytic cracking.
Chemistry--Study and teaching (Higher)
Emmett, Paul H. (Paul Hugh), 1900-1985
Fischer-Tropsch process.
Heterogeneous catalysis.
History of Science
Johns Hopkins University
Manhattan Project (U.S.)
Mellon Institute
Oregon Agricultural College--Students.
Oregon State College. Department of Chemical Engineering
Oregon State University--Alumni and alumnae.
Portland State University. Department of Chemistry

Forms of Material

Glass plate negatives.
Lantern slides.
Motion pictures (visual works)
Photographic prints.
Slides (photographs).
Video recordings (physical artifacts)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.