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John D. Ferry Papers

Identifier: 92-03

Content Description

The John D. Ferry Papers contain a collection of correspondence between John D. Ferry and Paul Flory. The contents of this correspondence are both professional and personal in nature. Within the correspondence, the two discuss their research with polymers, upcoming symposiums and conferences, references, invitations and thank-you letters, and personal matters. The John D. Ferry Papers also contain clippings and ephemera commemorating the death and memorial service of Paul Flory. This includes two pages from the journal Chemical & Engineering News, which contains a biography of Flory as well as eulogies from friends and colleagues. Additionally, there is a copy of the front page of the Stanford University Campus Report, which includes an article on Flory’s death, and a clipping from the Stanford Daily doing the same. The collection also contains a program for a memorial service held at Stanford Memorial Church, as well handwritten note of sympathy from John D. Ferry to Flory’s wife, Emily. The John D. Ferry Papers also contain a list of Flory’s scientific accomplishments, as well as a list of his undergraduate and graduate students.


  • Creation: 1948-1985

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the John D. Ferry Papers. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

John D. Ferry was a Canadian-born American chemist and biochemist best known for his research into viscoelasticity and the chemistry of large molecules. Born on May 4th, 1912, in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada, Ferry received both his B.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1932 and 1935 respectively. After receiving his degrees, Ferry began working for Harvard University in 1937 as an instructor in biochemical sciences. Later in 1946, Ferry would join the faculty at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he would serve as the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry from 1959-1967.

Ferry’s research focused primarily on the study of the mechanical and physical properties of polymers, as well as how these mechanisms could aid in surgery, such as with fibrinogen plastic and fibrin products. In 1961, Ferry published his book Viscoelastic Properties of Polymers, considered to be an authority on the topic. He also co-authored the work “The Temperature Dependence of Relaxation Mechanisms in Amorphous Polymers and Other Glass-forming Liquids” along with Malcolm Williams and Robert Landel, which introduced the WLF equation. Ferry was a member of the National Academy of Science and was the recipient of awards such as the Charles Goodyear Medal, the Bingham Medal, and the Colloid Chemistry Award. John D. Ferry died on October 18th, 2002, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Paul Flory was an American physical chemist and Nobel Laureate who was a pioneer in research into polymers and macromolecules. Born on June 19, 1910, in Sterling, Illinois, Flory attended Manchester College for his A.B in 1931, and then earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1934. His doctoral dissertation focused on the photochemistry of nitric oxide. After graduation, Flory began working for Dupont, with the focus of his work being polymer kinetics. Afterwards we worked for the University of Cincinnati, before joining the Standard Oil Development Company during World War II. Flory would then work at Cornell University and the Carnegie Mellon Institute, before accepting a professorship position at Stanford University.

Flory’s researched focused primarily on the physical chemistry of polymeric substances. Over his career, Flory wrote over 300 publications, including his work Principles of Polymer Chemistry, published while he was working for Cornell University. He would later publish other works such as Statistical Mechanics of Chain Molecules and Selected Works of Paul Flory. One of Flory’s main contributions to the study of polymers was the discovery that polymers dissolved in a solvent and kept at a specific temperature would allow scientists to analyze their properties, such as viscosity, light dispersion, and sedimentation rate. Flory received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1974, not for a particular work, but for his contributions to the field of physical chemistry of macromolecules. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the recipient of the Charles Goodyear Medal, the Priestly Medal, and the National Science Medal.

Paul Flory died on September 9th, 1985, in Big Sur, California at the age of 75.


.01 Linear Feet (1 Folder)

Language of Materials



A collection of correspondence between American chemists John D. Ferry and Paul Flory, with additionally correspondence between John D. Ferry and other scientists, as well as clippings and ephemera regarding the death of Paul Flory.

Acquisition Information

The John D. Ferry Papers were donated to the Science History Institute by John D. Ferry in 1992.

Related Materials

An oral history created by John D. Ferry is preserved at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library. Two collections relating to Paul Flory are preserved by the Hoover Institution Library and Archives and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library.

Processing Information

The John. D Ferry Papers were processed by Olivia E. Hosie in May 2024.

John D. Ferry Papers
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Olivia E. Hosie.
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Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

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