John L. Margrave was born April 13, 1924 in Kansas City, Kansas. He served in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps from 1941 until 1968, on active duty from 1943 through 1946. Margrave earned his B.S. in Engineering Physics in 1948 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1950 from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, where he was a Summerfield Scholar and a Slosson Fellow. He spent twenty months as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Atomic Energy Commission in the Department of Chemistry at Berkeley from 1951 to 1952. He also was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960.
Margrave taught Chemistry from 1952 to 1963 at the University of Wisconsin. He began his career at Rice University as a professor of chemistry in 1963. From 1967 through 1972 he was professor and chair of Rice’s department of chemistry, and from 1972 until 1980 as dean of Advanced Studies and Research. In 1980 he was named vice-president of Advanced Studies and Research, a position he held until 1986. That year he was named the E. D. Butcher Professor of Chemistry, a title he kept until his death on December 18, 2003 from complications following heart surgery.
Margrave’s laboratory at Rice University pioneered the following processes: synthetic studies of the carbine-analog SiF2; research in liquid metals at high temperatures through the electromagnetic levitation and heating of conducting samples coupled with high pressure drop calorimetry; a technique for X-ray powder diffraction studies of samples at high pressures; the use of high temperature mass spectroscopy to study fluorides, oxyfluorides, sulfides, and other species; low temperature reactions of metal atoms, dimers, and small clusters with H2O, ROH, R2O, NH3, CO, CO2, and other Lewis bases; reactions of elemental fluorine in low-temperature matrices and with oxides and nitrides; and studies of liquid metals by levitation techniques, including microgravity. Margrave’s special fields of interest included High Temperature Chemistry; Fluorine Chemistry; Optical, Infrared, ESR, Matrix-Isolation and Mass Spectrometry; High Pressure Chemistry; Thermochemistry; and Levitation Calorimetry. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, an American Chemical Society Award in Fluorine Chemistry, and a Kiekhofer Memorial Teaching Award. He was included in Who’s Who in America’s 1976-1977 edition. Margrave belonged to numerous professional societies such as the American Chemical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Chemists, and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. He authored more than 800 publications and was editor of the journal High Temperature Science from 1968 through at least 1995 and Refractory Materials Science from 1976 to 1977. From 1970 through 1976 he also co-edited the Materials Science and Technology Series and, from 1975 to 1976, the Proceedings of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. In addition, Margrave was a member of a number of editorial boards, including the Journal of Physical Chemistry, Annual Review of Physical Chemistry, and Advances in High Temperature Chemistry. Additionally, Margrave served on many advisory committees, including the Advisory Committee for Reactor Chemistry at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Materials Research Council, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Advisory Panel for Space Processing.
During his career at Rice University Margrave served as chairman of the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum for 1965-1971 and the Graduate Council from 1972-1986. In addition he served on the University Council from 1972-1986, the Research Council 1971-1986, the Tenure Review Committee from 1972-1986, and the Committee on Affirmative Action from 1969-1985, which he chaired from 1969-1973. Other committees upon which Margrave served included the University Space Committee from 1980-1986 and the Graduate House Advisory Committee from 1983-1986. Margrave also became director of the Rice Design Center in 1972 and was a member of the Rice Quantum Institute beginning in 1979. He was also president and then director of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, from 1986 until 1992.
Margrave delivered numerous international lectures and served as a consultant to many industries and government entities, including the Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, and the Solar Energy Research Institute. He established Marchem, Incorporated, a consulting firm and research lab, and was involved with the Houston Area Research Center (HARC) and the Gulf Universities Research Consortium (GURC). He married Mary Lou Davis, granddaughter of a former Kansas governor, in 1950.
The Gulf Universities Research Consortium (GURC) was formed in 1965. It was an interdisciplinary collaboration between industries and Gulf of Mexico universities designed to further research and development capabilities. Businesses such as Arco Oil and Gas Company, the Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and Dresser Industries often co-sponsored research projects. GURC relied on the expertise of knowledgeable professionals in economics, chemistry, anthropology, agri-economics, and ecology. The organization’s founders specifically worked to develop programs and research that were in the public interest or of common concern to its members and affiliates. Affiliates included the University of Alabama, Tulane University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Miami. The last correspondence related to GURC, dated 1983, indicates that the consortium disbanded sometime after that date.
The Houston Area Research Center (HARC) was an independent, non-profit corporation established to undertake studies associated with the development of new and emerging technologies. In addition, the corporation sought to carry out research focusing on the social, economic, and environmental consequences of alternate technologies, and to provide a setting for research and technology-related learning through workshops, seminars, and conferences. HARC was formed by a partnership of Rice University, the University of Houston, and Texas A&M University. It grew to include the University of Texas at Austin. It promoted the economic growth of east Texas and focused its attention on developing applied research centers such as the Laser Application Research Center, the Advanced Studies Institute, the National Dynamic Test Center, and the Technological Support for Health Systems center. While no definitive date for the beginning of HARC is located in the collection, it appears that it began operations in 1980. The last dated correspondence in the Margrave papers related to HARC is 1989.
High Temperature Science began publication in 1969. It was formed to foster the theoretical and practical uses of high temperature science. Margrave was one of its initial incorporators. He served as its editor from 1969 until at least 1995, the last year for which material was found in the collection. In 1975 it became known as High Temperature Science and Energy Technology and later as High Temperature and Materials Science. Academic Press originally published the journal, but lack of subscriptions caused that press to cease sponsoring publication. In 1977 Humana Press took over as publisher.
Margrave formed Marchem, Incorporated in 1969. The company started as a direct result of Margrave’s and his chemistry associates’ experimentation and development of CFX—a high temperature lubricant incorporating the fluorination of carbon (thus, the CF). Marchem’s beginning goal was to produce and sell CFX samples. Marchem also operated as a consulting firm and research lab with expertise in high temperature chemistry. In addition, the company helped develop the LaMar process (a combination of the names of its developers—Margrave and Dr. R. J. Lagow, another Rice chemist). The process produced a product known as “FluoroKote,” a fluorinated coating for plastics and rubbers. Both of these developments made possible the creation or improvement of many new products such as wax paper, surgical gloves, inner tubes, and rubber washers.