Frederick R. Eirich

Frederick R. Eirich

Polytechnic Institute of New York

May 23, 1905 – May 13, 2005

Physical Chemist
Awarded Bingham Medal 1983

Frederick R. Eirich was born in Vienna on May 23, 1905 and received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1929. He stayed at the University of Vienna the following year to work as an Assistant in the Department of Colloid Chemistry and Lecturer in Physical Chemistry while earning his Doctorate of Philosophy/Habilitation. After graduating in 1938, Eirich was subjected to a teaching ban from the University of Vienna due to the annexation of Austria. He responded by moving to the United Kingdom and accepting a position as Research Associate in the Department of Colloid Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. The start of World War II led to his deportation as a civilian internee, and he was transported to Australia in 1940. After being released from the detention center in 1941, he began working for the University of Melbourne as a Research Officer in the Lubricants and Bearings Section at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (now CSIRO).

Eirich moved back to the UK in 1943 to serve another two years as Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, this time in Physical Chemistry. He then moved to the United States in 1947 to work as an Associate Professor of Polymer Chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn (later renamed the Polytechnic Institute of New York). He was promoted to the position of Professor in 1951 and Distinguished Professor in 1969. Meanwhile, he became a U.S. citizen in 1953 and served as Dean of Research from 1967 to 1970.

As indicated by his varied career and experiences, Eirich’s research interests were established and took form in many countries and on three continents: Europe, Australia and America. At a very early stage in the development of rheology, he developed an interdisciplinary approach to molecular hydrodynamics and transport phenomena in polymers which could be used to elucidate the molecular and microscopic structures of these systems. He also contributed greatly to developing rheological, as well as other, experimental techniques to elucidate molecular conformation at surfaces and interfaces, with application to absorption and adhesion in both biological and synthetic polymers. This work has found application to an unusually broad range of research problems. In addition to these rheological studies, Eirich was deeply involved in NASA-sponsored research on the origin of life.

Eirich was honored by scientific and scholarly societies in Britain, Germany, Japan and Sweden, as well as in the U.S. He was an exemplary teacher and distinguished spokesman for rheology, encouraging participation from industrialists and scholars alike, while also dedicating himself to service projects such as the editing of a now-legendary five volume opus entitled Rheology: Theory & Applications. He served as President of The Society of Rheology from 1972-73 and is remembered for his ability to unite and strengthen the otherwise diverse and sometimes divisive interests of members of the Society.


Frederick R. Eirich. DNB EXIL. ERFAHRUNG UND ZEUGNIS (accessed Jul 23, 2019).

Eirich, F. R. (Frederick Roland) (1905 - ). Trove, National Library of Australia (accessed Jul 23, 2019).

Eirich, Frederick Roland (1905 - ). Encyclopedia of Australian Science (accessed Jul 23, 2019).

Eirich, F. R. Rheology: theory and applications; Vols 1-5. Acad. Press: New York, NY, 1968.

Note: This biography is an adaptation of the following articles previously published by the Society of Rheology.

1983 Bingham Medal Award. Rheology Bulletin 1983, 52(2).

Photo Credit

AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.