© 2010

A Science Career Against all Odds

A Life of Survival, Study, Teaching and Travel in the 20th Century


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxx
  2. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 1-33
  3. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 34-66
  4. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 67-105
  5. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 106-140
  6. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 163-200
  7. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 201-228
  8. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 447-470
  9. Bernhard Wunderlich
    Pages 471-482
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 1-37

About this book


This autobiography is written to follow the initially turbulent and seemingly random path of education and life experiences of the author in the 1930s and 40s during the oppressive 3rd German Reich. These early childhood insights made the author an undesirable student in the 1950s in the totalitarian German Democratic Republic, and ultimately brought him to the USA. Ideally prepared, he completed a first-rate education in record time, leading in 1965 to a tenured professorship in chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, specializing in research of the solid state of linear macromolecules (polymers, plastics). Early retirement in 1988 led to a new 20-year career as Professor and Distinguished Scientist at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A surprising requirement of this career was an extensive amount of travel within the US and worldwide. It rekindled an interest based on his father's love of the literature on explorations, led to a visit of many anthropological sites, and peaked with a trip around the world with Northwestern University Alumni. The unforeseeable results of writing this book were the many links between Bernhard Wunderlich's love of teaching and research to the earliest experiences in his life. He would not want to miss or change anything.

The complete list of publications and lectures is available online as electronic supplementary material on


autobiography education history of science learning polymer science research science

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.KnoxvilleU.S.A.

Bibliographic information


"I found reading this autobiography of the polymer chemist Bernhard Wunderlich an extremely humbling experience. As a UK babyboomer who was a child in the 1950s and a teenager in the 1960s, I found myself counting my blessings, as I read about someone born in Brandenburg, Germany, in 1931. (...)
Wunderlich's long and distinguished career in research and teaching involved him in extensive travel in the US and around the world, including periodic return visits to Germany. This book reflects his great love of travel, including a deep interes in European and Mediterranean antiquities. (...)
I found the book enthralling and would recommend it to young chemists of today. When we are tempted to complain, it is salutary to read about someone, who despite early hurdles and difficulties, had the determination to succeed and ended up living a very full life, supported by a wide network of friends and family.
(Lucy Mitton, Chemistry World, Royal Society of Chemistry 2010)