Semon, Waldo Lonsbury, 1898-

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1898-09-10
Death 1999-05-26

Biographical notes:

Waldo Semon began working as a research chemist at the B. F. Goodrich Company in Akron, Ohio in 1926 at the age of twenty seven. Through his research he developed and obtained patents for many improvements in the rubber and plastics industry. His first major breakthrough occurred in 1927 with the invention of Koroseal, a highly polymerized vinyl chloride that is used as a coating for electrical equipment because of its resistance to heat and moisture. While rubber chemists had attempted to artificially reproduce rubber for greater cost efficiency and availability in the ear1y 1900s, the high demand and decreased accessibility of natural rubber during World War II forced rubber manufacturers to test alternative methods for rubber production. In 1940 Dr. Semon announced the successful testing of a new synthetic rubber to be used with natural rubber for tires called Ameripol that would decrease the industry's dependence on rubber plantations in Asia.

While serving as Director of Synthetic Rubber Research at Goodrich from 1936 to 1943, Dr. Semon was also a committee member on the Government Synthetic Rubber Program that developed GR-S, or Government Rubber - Styrene. After resigning as Vice President and Director of the Hycar Chemical Cornpany (a division of B.F. Goodrich) in 1942 he took over the post of Director of Pioneer Research until 1954 when he became Director of Polymer Research. In 1962 he was named Director of Corporate Forward Technology and Basic Exploratory Research. After his retirement in October 1963 he continued on at BFG as Research Consultant and also accepted a position as part-time Research Professor at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

Dr. Semen's research carried the B. F. Goodrich Company far beyond new improvements in tire technology. In his Brecksville Research Lab Dr. Semon developed unique forms of plastics, rubber to metal bonding agents and age resistors to give polymerized products longer life and durability. He also branched out into agricultural pursuits developing fertilizers and repellents for plants against animals and insects and analyzed the use of chemicals in the production of paper. In addition to his dozens of articles for technical journals and well over 150 patents, Dr. Semon added to his credentials by being awarded the Modern Pioneer Award in 1940 and the Charles Goodyear Medal in 1946.

Dr. Semon was a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the National Farm Chemurgic Council. On the job, Dr. Semon balanced his work as a pure research chemist and a department director. With one foot in the laboratory and one in the office, he obviously enjoyed performing experiments of discovery but was likewise efficiency minded, always conscious of ways to cut operating costs and searching for practical applications to his creations for the good of the company.

From the guide to the Waldo L. Semon Papers, 1926-1990, 1926-1990, (Archival Services, University Libraries, The University of Akron)

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Subjects:

  • Rubber, Artificial--History

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