Robert W. Cairns

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Robert W. Cairns
Robert W. Cairns, American chemist.jpg
Hercules corporate portrait, circa 1950.
Born(1909-12-23)December 23, 1909
Oberlin, Ohio, United States
DiedJanuary 27, 1985(1985-01-27) (aged 75)
Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Alma materOberlin College
Johns Hopkins University
Known forSolventless Rocket Propellants
AwardsPerkin Medal (1969)
IRI Medal (1974)
Scientific career

Robert W. Cairns was an American chemist who worked at Hercules and at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He contributed to World War II technological advances in explosives.


Cairns was born in Oberlin, Ohio.[1] He was the son of William Cairns, an Oberlin College mathematics professor.[2] He received an AB from Oberlin College in 1930 and a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1932. He attended the six-week advanced management program at Harvard Business School.[3]

He was appointed director of research in 1955 at Hercules Research Center, was elected to the board of directors in 1960 and in 1967, he became vice-president. In 1968, he was appointed president of the American Chemical Society and then in 1972 named executive director.[3] After retiring from Hercules in 1971, he became deputy assistant secretary for science and technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce.[1]

Cairns led innovation in propellants for military rockets and in the photographic recording of explosive reactions. He then directed the role of Hercules as the major supplier to the U.S. military of these propellants.[3]

He died of pneumonia in 1985 at the age of 75.[1]

Awards and Honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "ohs_obits_C".
  2. ^ "Williams Cairns biography on Oberlin College site".
  3. ^ a b c d e f National Academy of Engineering biography, "Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering," Volume 3 (1989), pp. 68-72
  4. ^ "SCI America – Past Perkin Medalists".
  5. ^ "Medal - IRI".
  6. ^ Chemical and Engineering News article, "ACS's Cairns is new president of IUPAC," September 15, 1975, p. 8