Biographical Data

Dr. Robert Wayne Van Dolah

Dr. Robert Wayne Van Dolah is Research Director, Explosive Research Center, Bureau of Mines, U.S. Department of Interior, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this position which he has occupied over twelve years, he plans and directs research in the fields of combustion and explosions. He has provided consultative service to military agencies on a number of occasions. He has participated in several accident investigations involving fire and explosions.

Prior to joining the Bureau of Mines in 1954, Dr. Van Dolah was head of the Organic Chemistry Branch and then head of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Naval Ordinance Test Station beginning in 1946. In those positions he planned and directed research on the chemistry of propellants and fuels and their combustion characteristics. Before that he served first as assistant to the Scientific Director and later as research Chemist and Group Leader of the William S. Merrell Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dr. Van Dolah was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, February 1, 1919. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Chemistry from Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington, in 1940 and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, in 1943. He is a member of the honorary societies: American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow), Combustion Institute, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Senior Member). He is on the Board of Directors of the National Fire Protection Association.

Dr. Van Dolah is author or co-author of 97 publications and three patents. He is very active in committee work in areas relating to fire and explosions including being Chairman of National Fire Protection Association Committee on Chemicals and Explosives, the Working Group on Hazards, Committee on Safety Criteria of the Interagency Chemical Rocket Propulsion Group. He is a member of American Chemical Society Committee on Chemical Safety and of numerous other committees. In July 1965, he received the Department of Interior Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Van Dolah lives at 202 Cherokee Road, Upper St. Clair Township (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, with his wife, the former Elizabeth M. Becker of Portland, Oregon. They have one daughter in college and two sons in high school.


Updated February 3, 2003
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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