Paul M. Cook, born 1924, created a chemistry lab in his house when he was 12 years old, and went on to develop high-performance materials used to build the electronic infrastructure that serve as the backbone of today's wired world.
Paul M. Cook was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, on April 25, 1924. His father was president and chief mechanical engineer for a company he founded, the Cornish Wire Company. His mother was an energetic woman who encouraged her children’s interests in music and art as well as science and technology.
Cook showed an early interest in technology, creating a chemistry laboratory in the cellar of his house when he was 12 years old and conducted experiments. He enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1941, spent two years there, then enlisted in the Army. He was placed in the Army Specialized Training Program and was sent to Stanford University for six months, where he studied mechanical engineering — an added specialty that helped him solve engineering challenges confronting Raychem in its early days.
Returning to MIT after the war, he graduated in 1947 with a degree in chemical engineering. He immediately became vice president of the Warren Wire Company, a magnet wire manufacturing business he started with his brother, supported by his father. Persuaded by Ralph M. Krause, a radiation expert and director of research at SRI, Cook joined SRI as a chemical engineer in 1948. It was there he began the work that led to the first successful commercialization of radiation chemistry.
Visit National Historic Chemical Landmarks to read more about Paul Cook and the commercialization of radiation chemistry.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program