The History of The George and Josephine Butler Polymer Research Laboratory

Dr. Ken Wagener

Research in polymer chemistry and engineering started in 1946 when Professor George Butler moved to Gainesville to begin a teaching career here. As a consequence, this laboratory, which is more than 60 years old now, is amongst the oldest in the United States to conduct research in polymer science within a department of chemistry. It started as a relatively small group of researchers and remained that way until 1970 when a physical polymer chemist, Thieo Hogen Esch, was brought to the Department. Ken Dill joined in the early 1980’s, later moving to the University of California/San Francisco where he is today.

George and Josephine Butler

This is not to say that research in polymers was only happening within the Butler and Hogen Esch research laboratories, for that is not the case. Many others were involved to greater or lesser extents, including Charles Reed in the early years. Professor Reed was among the first in the world to investigate the use of polymer membranes for reverse osmosis purification of salt water to create pure drinking water.

Nevertheless, the origin of what is known today as the George and Josephine Butler Polymer Research Laboratory undoubtedly can be attributed to the work of Butler and Hogen-Esch. In 1984 a decision was made to expand further by the addition of Ken Wagener to the faculty; Randy Duran came in 1989, John Reynolds in 1992.

The George & Josephine Butler Research Laboratory became formally recognized as a separate entity in 1995 when it was dedicated as part of the renovation of Leigh Hall, one of the Department’s oldest Buildings. The Butler Laboratory is found on the third floor of this building, and at present is occupied by the Castellano, Colina, Fanucci, Miller, Savin, Sumerlin, Veige, and Wagener research groups


Dr. Butler's feature in the April 1996 issue of the "Independent Florida Alligator"

Newspaper Article featuring George Butler, circa 1996
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