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Chapter 4: Olympian Feats

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Just as player-coaches are rare in sports, so are laboratory division directors who continue their scientific research. Ellison H. Taylor, director of ORNL's Chemistry Division for 20 years, found time to pursue his own research interests during his directorship. Fortunately, he was division director from 1954 to 1974 when the demands of the federal bureaucracy were not as great on managers as they are today. 

Taylor joined the Chemistry Division in the fall of 1945, after conducting research on gaseous diffusion for uranium isotope separation for the Manhattan Project at Columbia University. He served in interim positions as acting director of the Chemistry Division and associate director of the Laboratory. When he took over the position of Chemistry Division director, he succeeded his friend and associate Samuel C. Lind, who had served as acting director. 

              H. Taylor
Ellison H. Taylor

Besides molding the physical science programs of the Chemistry Division, Taylor participated in them. He had a general interest in the chemical applications of molecular beams and began to investigate and refine various approaches. In 1951 he began collaborating with new staff scientist Sheldon Datz, who brought a familiarity with beam techniques from Columbia University. This collaboration grew into a major research activity. In 1955 their landmark publication on crossing molecular beams introduced a powerful new method of studying reaction mechanisms. 

Taylor collaborated with Ralph Livingston and Henry Zeldes in the first unambiguous identification by electron-spin resonance spectroscopy of a radiation-produced free radical, the hydrogen atom, in certain frozen acids. Working with J. A. Wethington, Taylor was the first to successfully study the effect of ionizing radiation on solid catalysts, stimulating a new area of research. 

In the late 1960s, a flurry of scientific activity suggested the existence of a new form of water, called polywater or anomalous water. Taylor was intrigued by these reports and carried out his own investigations in the 1970s. The original reports of anomalous water were discredited in the literature, and Taylor terminated his studies with a paper arguing against polywater's existence. 

Taylor and W. C. Waggener studied a novel approach to measurement of the adsorptive forces of gases on solids and published a report on the subject. His research activities continued until his retirement from the Laboratory in 1978, and subsequently he became a consultant to the Chemistry Division. His long-term service as a player-coach—dedicated to both the management and practice of research—makes Ellison Taylor the most influential figure in the division's history. 

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