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Henry Gilman papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 13/6/52

Scope and Content

The collection (1893-1993, undated) contains biographical information, correspondence, research, presentations, and published works of Dr. Gilman. The biographical information includes awards, a bibliography, newspaper clippings, and general biographical information. Included in the correspondence are letters to and from doctoral students, family members and other individuals. Gilman's publications comprise much of the collection and mostly focus on organometallic chemistry. The collection also contains information about the graduate program in chemistry at Iowa State University and Gilman's association with professional organizations.


  • 1893-1993

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Henry Gilman was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 9, 1893. He received his B.S. (1915), M.S. (1916), and Ph.D. (1918) in Chemistry from Harvard University. He received the Sheldon Fellowship and studied in Europe at Zurich Polytechnikum, and at Oxford in London.

Gilman began his career at the University of Illinois as an Instructor of Chemistry (1919). He joined the faculty of Iowa State College (University) as an Assistant Professor (1919-1920). He was promoted to Associate Professor (1920-1923) and Professor (1923-1986) and was honored by being named Distinguished Professor (1962). While at Iowa State, Gilman helped to develop the Chemistry Department into one of national renown.

Gilman’s main area of research was in organometallic chemistry and he built a reputation as a pioneer in the field. He authored or co-authored over a thousand papers and edited a two-volume textbook, Organic Chemistry: An Advanced Treatise (call no. QD251 G42o). Gilman was on the board of editors for Journal of Organic Chemistry and the Journal of American Chemical Society. During World War II, Gilman was a consultant on the Manhattan Project. He also laid the groundwork for a growing interest in organometallics among chemical industries after the war, setting the stage for further development of plastics. Despite developing glaucoma and retinal detachment (1947) that left him blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other, Gilman continued to teach and research until his death.

Gilman gave countless lectures and speeches around the world including the First International Symposium on Organometallic Chemistry (1963). He also spoke at other International Symposiums on Organosilicon Chemistry in Prague, Heidelberg, Rome and Paris. In addition, he was invited to speak in West Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia The Netherlands, France, Bulgaria, and Romania. The United States National Academy of Science designated him the official representative and lecturer (1963) to the Soviet Union.

Due to his extraordinary career, Gilman received numerous awards and distinctions. He was elected (1945) into the National Academy of Sciences. He received the Iowa and Midwest Award (1951) from the American Chemical Society. Gilman was elected as an Honorary Fellow (1961) of the British Chemical Society and he was the first recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Frederic Stanley Kipping Award in Organosilicon Chemistry (1962). The American Chemical Society also awarded Gilman with the Priestly Medal (1977). Gilman received one of the first Distinguished Fellow Awards (1975) from the Iowa Academy of Sciences and he was presented with one of the first Iowa Governor’s Science Medals (1982). The chemistry building at Iowa State University was renamed Gilman Hall in 1974.

Gilman married Ruth V. Shaw in 1929. He died November 7, 1986, at the age of 93 and is interred at the Iowa State University Cemetery.


23.52 Linear Feet (47 document boxes and1 index card box)


Henry Gilman (1893-1986) was an organic chemist renowned for his groundbreaking work in organometallic chemistry. He joined the faculty of Iowa State College (University) in 1919, attained the rank of Professor in 1923, and was named Distinguished Professor in 1962. Gilman helped Iowa State's Chemistry Department rise to national prominence. He authored or co-authored over a thousand publications and delivered countless lectures and speeches around the world, among other professional activities at the highest levels. Never truly retiring, he remained involved in teaching and research until shortly before his death. This collection (1893-1993 undated) contains biographical information, correspondence, research, presentations, and publications. Gilman's publications are mostly focused on aspects of organometallic chemistry, and they comprise much of the collection.


This collection is arranged into seven series:

Series 1: Biographical information, 1893-1993, undated (chronologically)

Series 2: Correspondence with Individuals, 1921-1986, undated (alphabetically)

Series 3: Correspondence Relating to Subjects, 1921-1986 (alphabetically)

Series 4: Publications, 1929-1975, undated (alphabetically)

Series 5: Presentations, 1920-1976 (chronologically)

Series 6: Research, 1871-1986 (alphabetically)

Series 7: Iowa State University and Professional Organizations Materials, 1920-1984 (alphabetically)

Items in related collections

RS 13/6. Iowa State University. Department of Chemistry records, 1883-2014

Related collection materials

Further information regarding Henry Gilman's life can be found in the following publications:

•Petersen, Ingo H. “The Henry Gilman I Knew,” Chemistry at Iowa University: Some Historical Accounts of the Early Years, compiled and edited by Patricia A. Thiel. Ames, Iowa: Department of Chemistry, Iowa State University, c2006. (call number: QD47.5 I83 I58x 2006)

•Collins, Sibrina N. “The Gilman Pipeline: a Historical Perspective of African American Ph.D. Chemists from Iowa State University.” Chemistry at Iowa University: Some Historical Accounts of the Early Years, compiled and edited by Patricia A. Thiel. Ames, Iowa: Department of Chemistry, Iowa State University, c2006. (call number: QD47.5 I83 I58x 2006)

•Eaborn, C. “Henry Gilman,” Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 1990, vol. 36, pp 153-172. (call number: Q1 R813b)

•Morton, John. Gilmania: Being a Thesaurus of Verbal and Pictorial Efforts, on the Part of Divers Organic-Chymists, at a Brief Commentary, upon Their Experience in The Laboratories of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Ames, [Iowa : Carter Press], 1954. (call number: QD21 G55x 1954)

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 13/6/52. Henry Gilman papers, 1893-1993
March 12, 2019
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672