CLEVELAND (Jan. 10, 2008) — J. Reid Shelton, 1983 ACS Rubber Division Charles Goodyear Medalist, died Dec. 31 at the age of 96.
Shelton spent 41 years teaching at Case Western University in Cleveland and its predecessors, Case School of Applied Science and Case Institute of Technology. He worked on oxidation and antioxidants in rubber and applied laser-Raman spectroscopy to the study of sulfur vulcanization.
Shelton grew up in a rural area characterized by small family farms and received his early education in a one-room school house, according to his daughter-in-law, Jan Shelton. Despite attending a high school so small that no chemistry course was offered, he won a $20 gold piece for writing a prize-winning paper on the industrial use of corn cobs.
He went on to receive a bachelor´s degree in chemistry, a master´s and a doctorate from the State University of Iowa, and began his teaching career at Case in 1936.
His research on synthetic rubber was particularly important during World War II, when access to natural rubber in Southeast Asia was cut off by the Japanese, and the new SR made from styrene and butadiene displayed stability problems. With his students, he undertook fundamental studies of the reactions occurring in the oxidation, degradation, and stabilization of rubber and other polymers with support at various times from Firestone, Goodyear, the U.S. Army Ordinance Research and other government agencies, and the Petroleum Research Fund.
With Melvin J. Astle, he co-authored the college textbook "Organic Chemistry" in 1953. His wife, Leah—to whom he was married for 70 years—used a manual typewriter that had been altered to include special scientific symbols to create the manuscript.
Shelton, who retired in 1977, was mentor to another Charles Goodyear Medalist, Jack L. Koenig, who won the award in 2000. In an interview at the time, Koenig said he and Shelton taught a course together.
"He taught me how to teach, taught me about rubbers, taught me a number of things," Koenig said. "And since I did have spectroscopic skills, he recognized this would be useful in his research, which was oxidation of rubber. We had a very happy cooperative relationship."
Shelton´s enthusiasm and insight into the field encouraged Koenig. "When I got the call (about being named the Goodyear Medalist), the first person I called was Reid," he said.
Shelton is survived by three children: Margaret M. Snyder of Poquoson, Va.; James W. Shelton of Willoughby, Ohio; and Patricia A. Nierode of Kingwood, Texas; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place Jan. 19 at Epworth-Euclid United Methodist Church in Cleveland.