Photo of Herman F. Mark

Herman F. Mark

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his contributions to polymer chemistry, and his role in the introduction of polymer science as an academic discipline in the United States.

Herman F. Mark’s remarkable career in polymer research spanned decades and continents and led to advancements in products with uses ranging from airplanes to the space program. A prolific author, Mark produced hundreds of research papers and 40 books, and developed the discipline of polymer study.

And as the first director of the Polymer Institute at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y., put the study of polymers – long chains of molecules — at the forefront of science.

Mark, who was born in Austria, was a decorated World War I veteran and earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1921. Working for a German chemical company in 1928, he and colleagues were the first scientists to define the structure of an organic polymer in a living thing. Later, in 1933, he and a student developed the kinetic theory of rubber elasticity.

As the Nazis spread across Europe, Mark fled for the United States, landing in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he became a professor at the Polytechnic University. Mark became the first director of the school’s new Polymer Institute.

He directed the institute until his retirement in 1964.

By Robert Warren