Eric Baer, the 2018 recipient of the Charles Goodyear Medal from the ACS Rubber Division, still remembers the first time he was published. It was in 1954, when he was working toward his doctorate at Johns Hopkins.
The paper dealt with heat transfer. The intent was to prevent drop formation from condensation. Part of the experiment was putting a thin Teflon surface on a metal, a technology still in use in the frying pans of today.
But that was hardly the last publication for Baer, who has been a full-time faculty member since 1962 at what is now Case Western Reserve University. He built the school's Department of Macromolecular Science & Engineering from scratch, and even served a five-year stint as the dean of Science & Engineering.
Along the way, he authored more than 650 publications, and authored or co-authored seven books. In addition to that, he served as the editor of a number of journals, including 25 years as the editor of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science. He said editing was hard work but he enjoyed it, because you learn a lot by editing works of others.
Baer is a big believer in studying research papers from the past—something he doesn't think students do enough of these days—because he knows that those who don't "read history are bound to repeat it, and that's not a good idea."
But that doesn't mean the professor is stuck in the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. When asked how gratifying it was to be part of a collaborative effort with Dow that led to a whole new class of thermoplastic elastomers, he said he was proud of the work but doesn't dwell on it. "I don't like living in the past," he replied. "I like living in today, in the present."