Herman Mark father of polymer science worked on electron diffraction studies on cellulose

Herman Mark – father of polymer chemistry

Article on Herman Mark

Biography & Contributions

Herman Mark (Herman Francis Mark) was an Austrian-American chemist born on May 03, 1895 – died on April 6, 1992. Mark was known as the father of polymer science.

Herman Mark was the winner of many medals and prizes Elliott Cresson Medal in the year of 1966, Harvey Prize in the year of 1976, National Medal of Science and Wolf Prize in Chemistry in the year of 1979, Perkin Medal in the year of 1980.

Mark worked on electron diffraction, a monograph (1928) with Meyer on cellulose that demolished the classic micellar theory of polymer formation, an equation relating the viscosity of a polymer solution to the molecular weight of the polymer (1929), and the synthesis and application of his results. His process for the catalytic production of styrene made possible the commercial manufacture of polystyrene and styrene-butadiene rubber.

Mark collaborated with Polanyi and other colleagues in using x-ray diffraction to establish the crystal structures of small organic molecules and metals. This work was extended to naturally­occurring organic materials such as cellulose and silk.


Cellulose is odorless, hydrophilic organic compound with a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to many thousands of β(1→4) linked D-glucose units. Cellulose is an important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants, many forms of algae and the oomycetes. Some species of bacteria secrete it to form biofilms.

Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. Cellulose is mainly used to produce paperboard and paper. Smaller quantities are converted into a wide variety of derivative products such as cellophane and rayon. Cellulose for industrial use is mainly obtained from wood pulp and cotton. Cellulose is used in the production of regenerated celluloses from dissolving pulp.

Cellulose consists of crystalline and amorphous regions. Cellulose is used to make water-soluble adhesives and binders such as methyl cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose which are used in wallpaper paste. Cellulose is further used to make hydrophilic and highly absorbent sponges. Cellulose is the raw material in the manufacture of nitrocellulose which is used in smokeless gunpowder.

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