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James E. Guillet fonds

  • UTA 1337
  • Fonds
  • 1944–2005

Personal records of Professor James E. Guillet, documenting his academic and professional career as chemist with Eastman Kodak Company, as a professor of chemistry at the University of Toronto, and as an inventor and promoter of basic research and industrial application in the use and disposal of plastics and synthetic fibres. Includes correspondence, education, administrative and teaching activities; manuscripts of published and unpublished literary works, addresses, associations and conferences, grant applications and research files, laboratory notebooks, research notes and reports of students, post-doctoral fellows and visiting professors, files on consulting and on three high-technology companies he founded, patent files, and photographs.

Guillet, James Edwin

Education and early career

James Guillet registered in mathematics and physics in the Bachelor of Arts program at Victoria College in the autumn of 1944. In second year he switched to honours physics and chemistry, graduating in 1948. In addition to his core honours courses, he took religious knowledge for his first two years, followed by Greek and Roman history. His interest in the latter continued after his graduation with an extra course in 1948-1949. English, French and German (reading courses in French and German his last two years) and physical training rounded out his curriculum. The only extra-curricular activity documented in this series is the Alpha Phi chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.

The series begins with notebooks containing lectures, laboratory experiments and notes for his undergraduate courses. Guillet kept detailed and careful notes, recording the names of his lecturers, some of whose personal papers have not survived. In this category are Leopold Infeld and B.A. Griffiths (Applied Mathematics); Andrew Gordon and F. R. Lorriman (Chemistry); D. A.. F. Robinson, M. E. G. Waddell, and W. J. Webber (Mathematics); D. S. Ainslee, Colin Barnes and M. F. Crawford (Physics); and W. T. Brown (Religious knowledge/Greek and Roman history). Professors, whose personal papers are in the University Archives, include George F Wright (Chemistry) and Elizabeth Allin and John Satterley (Physics).

The course notes are followed by a file on Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and another of correspondence with camera suppliers while a research chemist with Eastman Kodak in Tennessee.

In 1953 Guillet entered Cambridge University from which he received his doctorate in 1955. This series contains notebooks relating to laboratory projects carried out while studying under R. G. W. Norrish. The series ends with files on a conference Guillet gave on his research in France in 1954, a seminar at Vanderbilt University (1958), and employment at Eastman Kodak in Tennessee in 1959.

University of Toronto – Administration and teaching files

This series documents some of Professor Guillet’s activities at the University of Toronto, both as an administrator and as a lecturer. There are substantial gaps – most of his administrative files remain with the Department and his lecture and teaching material is very incomplete. The committee files
are more substantial but many committees are not represented. The arrangement is largely alphabetical.

The series begins with files on his sabbatical leave, awards, and his visiting professorship at the
University of California at San Diego. These are followed by files on the Committee for Honorary
Degrees and correspondence and memoranda from the Department of Chemistry, including the
hiring of laboratory technicians. There are only three files of course material and lecture notes,
largely from the 1980s. The remaining files relate primarily to committee work: the Inventions
Foundation Committee and the University inventions policy generally (1974-1998), the ‘Old
Scientific Instruments’ Committee (20001-2002), the Polymer and Colloid Chemistry Group (1989-
1990), Presidential Advisory Committee on Supplementary Income and Related Activities (1972-
1976), Post-doctoral Scholarly Exchange with China (1979-1983), and the Research Board’s Patents
Committee Review Task Force (1976-1978). There is a single file on Professor Guillet’s
administrative activities at Scarborough College. The last file in the series is on the University’s
Scientific Development Committee (1961-1972).

University of Toronto: Students, Post-doctoral fellows and visiting professors

Professor Guillet was highly respected and sought after by students and senior scientists alike, both in Canada and abroad. Over the years he supervised 28 PhD theses, 26 masters degrees and 50 post-doctoral fellows and research associates. Some arrived as part of exchange student programs with Dutch, German and Russian institutions. Some of the exchange programs were also for professors, especially those from the Soviet Union/Russia. Guillet’s students or post-doctoral fellows now hold academic positions in Canadian, American, British, Japanese, Polish and Singaporean universities and positions in industry in many countries. The emphasis in this series is on their activities at the University of Toronto, but there is also correspondence and associated material in files, especially at the post-doctoral level, of their earlier and subsequent academic and research work.

The series begins with a file contain student registers and lists of students (1963-1993), followed by correspondence from students wishing to study under Professor Guillet and relating to fourth-year undergraduate students and summer research assistants. There is also correspondence with students regarding their theses reports (1973-1996), applications from students in China (1983-1990), and letters of reference for students and administrative and academic colleagues (1985-2002).

The remaining files are grouped into the following categories: ‘undergraduates’, ‘exchange students’, ‘Masters students’, ‘PhD students’ and ‘post-doctoral fellows, research associates and visiting (including exchange) professors’. There is a also a final category of ‘demonstrators’, ‘research assistants’ and ‘research associates’. There are some files of general correspondence and files on individuals within each section are arranged alphabetically. Where students took both masters and doctoral degrees, the files are with the higher degree. Many of the students and fellows left their lab books with Professor Guillet. Those of only one student, Guojun Liu (now a senior professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario), as a doctoral candidate have been retained as a sampling (his masters notebooks were not kept). A few lab books relating to specific projects have also been retained; these are filed in Series 5 and 7. Files on individuals are arranged alphabetically within each section.

The undergraduate files consist mostly of the final project reports, with some notes, progress reports and covering correspondence. The earliest exchange proposals were with Russia in the late 1960s; there is a file of correspondence, primarily with notes on research projects at the University of Toronto (1969-1990), notebooks, and then files on research projects of the Moscow Institute of Fine Chemical Technology. There are individual files for the Dutch exchange students and some for the German, along with a file of covering correspondence for the latter. The masters student files may contain correspondence, research notes and progress reports. Many of the doctoral student files also contain programs for oral examinations and thesis defence, and appraisals of theses. A few also contain drafts of papers co-authored with Professor Guillet.

The correspondence in the graduate and post-doctoral files address a wide variety of issues, including those relating to of bringing students and post-doctoral fellows to the University of Toronto, research generally, and the specific problems associated with individual research projects. There are also some letters of reference. In addition to correspondence, the files on post-doctoral fellows contain research notes and reports. Some have research proposals, drafts of papers co-authored with Professor Guillet, and evaluations of the programs under which they came to the University of Toronto (for example, the special program for Chinese scholars). In addition to the usual material, the research notebook of one of Professor Guillet’s first post-doctoral fellows, Mitsura Koike from Japan (1964-1966), has been retained.

Consulting and industrial innovation

Throughout his career, Professor Guillet acted as a consultant on research and technology to a number of companies and also appeared as an expert witness in court cases. At the same time, he founded and was actively involved with running three small Canadian high-technology companies: EcoPlastics Limited, Medipro Sciences Limited, and Solarchem Corporation. The series begins with a general file on consulting jobs, followed by files on companies to which he acted as a consultant,
then those he founded (which begin in midway through box 041); each section is arranged in alphabetical order. The files contain correspondence, memoranda, notes, research notes and reports.

Of the major companies for which Professor Guillet acted as a consultant, only IOPTEX Research Inc. is missing from this series. The most substantial files are on two companies, Albchem
Industries Ltd. and the Allied Chemical Company. Guillet’s research for the former was the development of technology related to the manufacture of hydrogen peroxide centring on a proprietary polymer for which he had submitted a patent application in the United States (see box 036). Several doctoral students, particularly David Gravett, assisted him in this project; his notebooks and the progress reports are with the files. With the Allied Chemical Company, Guillet was acting in his capacity as president of Ecoplastics and worked on two projects – the development of commercial photoresists for deep ultraviolet lithography and Allied tar sands flocculent program.
The earliest company for which Professor Guillet acted as a consultant was the Glidden Company of Canada, with which he was associated for twenty years. Other clients (the list is not exhaustive) included oil companies Esso/Imperial Oil/Exxon, British Petroleum, Mobil Oil, and Standard Oil; Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, a Swedish company interested in Guillet’s work on DNA sequencing; G-Nano LLC, which sought Guillet’s expertise in cross-linked nano-particle technology; the Institute for Chemical Science and Technology, seeking expertise in the tracing of chemical pollutants; Johnson & Johnson (surface coating of spectacle lenses); Pan-Tec Inc., a manufacturer of composite tiles; Pheromone Sciences Ltd. (mammalian pheromones); Primaxis Technology Ventures Inc., which was interested in the Polytrace technology that Guillet had developed; and Webb Ocular Prosthetics which specialized in artificial eyes. There is correspondence with Professor Guillet’s former employer, Tennessee Eastman Company, with which he maintained an association for many years after he joined the University of Toronto.

The files on the companies Professor Guillet founded underline the problems they faced in finding sufficient financial backing to develop their ideas and market their products. EcoPlastics Limited was eventually taken over by American Eco Corporation and ecolyte degradable plastics were sold worldwide by Ecolyte Atlantic Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland under licence from EcoPlastics. The files on this company contain correspondence, notes, minutes, press coverage, reports and documents relating to investments by the Ahed Investors Syndicate. By the time Medipro Sciences Limited was sold to Pharma Patch PLC in 1993, it had achieved some successes in developing the medical applications of plastic materials. Two projects are documented here: a contract to develop new delivery systems for contraceptive steroids for the World Health Organization, and the development of wound dressings for burn casualties. The single file on Solarchem contains correspondence, financial proposals and contracts about Professor Guillet’s inventions in solar chemistry.

The series ends with two other companies of which Professor Guillet was involved, Seabreeze Plastics, of which he was a director, and Syntheria Pharmaceuticals, that experimented with liquid dressings.

Manuscripts and publications

Professor Guillet’s publications span fifty years, from 1954 to 2005. His curriculum vitae lists 282 scientific papers and chapters of books, and two book published by 2002. More papers have appeared since. He first came to the attention of the public internationally in 1970 when Time Magazine announced that he had filed application for four basic patents on biodegradable plastics. His Polymers and Ecological Problems, an edited volume of papers from a symposium on the subject, appeared in 1973. His Polymer Photophysics and Photochemistry (1985) is still a standard reference. About fifty of his publications are missing from this series; the largest gap appears at the beginning of his career – papers #1 and 5-23 (1954, 1960-1967). Some papers appeared with Guillet as the sole author but most were the result of collaborative research with his students, post-doctoral fellows and others in his discipline.

Many of Professor Guillet’s papers were published in series as a part of ongoing research into specific attributes of polymers. Often two papers would appear (the first in 1955) on a particular problem, but sometimes the number of papers would be ten or more. Nineteen were published on the ‘photochemistry of ketone polymers’ between 1968 and 1985, while twenty-seven in the series ‘studies of the antenna effect in polymer molecules’, appeared between 1982 and 2002. Two other papers in this series were not published but are with the unpublished manuscripts.

The files contain any to all of the following: drafts of articles, offprints, covering correspondence, contracts and related documents, notes, reviewers’ comments, royalty statements, and photographs. The arrangement is chronological, with the published papers appearing first, followed by sixteen papers that were either not submitted or not accepted for publication. The files of unpublished manuscripts, in particular, contain covering notes by Susan Arbuckle, Professor Guillet’s secretary.

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