Edwin A. Gee papers1958-1978
Edwin A. Gee (1920-2013) was trained as a chemical engineer and worked as a metallurgist for the United States Bureau of Mines before joining the DuPont Company in 1948. The papers of Edwin A. Gee are incomplete and represent only a small portion of his work in the Development Department and as a member of the Executive Committee. The surviving records have been arranged in two series that document Gee's involvement in important phases of the company's history: Patent documentation and Diversification and research and development strategy.
- Gee, Edwin Austin, 1920-2013 (Person)
1 Linear Foot
Edwin A. Gee (1920-2013) was trained as a chemical engineer and worked as a metallurgist for the United States Bureau of Mines before joining the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company in 1948. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company is a chemical company more commonly referred to as the DuPont Company. Before being named assistant director of the Development Department in 1960, Gee was assistant director of sales in the Pigments Department. Gee spent eight years in the Development Department, serving first as assistant director and later as director. In 1968, he was named general manager of the Photo Products Department. Gee was elected to the Executive Committee in 1970, filling the seat vacated by George E. Holbrook (1909-1987). He served as an advisor on research until he was succeeded by Richard E. Heckert (1909-1987) in 1974. Gee continued to serve as a senior vice president until he left DuPont; he remained an outspoken and persistent critic of the company's traditional approach to managing research and development programs.
By the end of the 1950s, the increased competitiveness of a rapidly maturing chemical industry provided the impetus for President Crawford H. Greenewalt (1902-1993) to commit DuPont to a program of diversification that would lead to new research initiatives and successful commercial ventures beyond established lines of business. Until the Subcommittee's formation on Planning in 1960, the Executive Committee's formal involvement in planning for research and development had been limited to approving or rejecting departmental requests for funding. Subcommittee members Samuel Lenher (1905-1992), George E. Holbrook, and David H. Dawson (1908-1976) believed that a revitalized Development Department was the appropriate vehicle to identify promising commercial investment opportunities. Dawson, in particular, urged the creation of a new department that would assume responsibility for implementing the diversification strategy on the corporate level and provide greater coordination for research projects rather than allowing departments to act as autonomous units. In selecting Edwin A. Gee to direct the company's New Venture program, the Executive Committee hoped to duplicate the success of earlier decades when pioneering research yielded proprietary inventions which were successfully translated into profitable commercial ventures.
Because DuPont almost exclusively on internal research to generate new ventures and failed to capitalize on opportunities to acquire smaller firms that were developing emerging technologies, Gee reported to the Subcommittee that the company was experiencing what he called a "diversification gap." To close this gap, Gee recommended that DuPont place greater emphasis on developing unique products for new markets rather than expecting precious resources on products designed for highly competitive or non-existent markets.
By the time it was discontinued in the late 1960s, the New Venture program was widely regarded as a failure since the tremendous sums invested in these research projects had produced relatively few commercially successful ventures. Due to the inability of Executive Committee members to reach a consensus on a corporate diversification strategy, the lack of cooperation from research directors who were unwilling to allow their individual research agendas to be subsumed within a companywide program, and managements' continued reluctance to modify the company's approach to research and development to reflect changing economic conditions, the program turned out to be merely an intensified version of DuPont's traditional innovation strategy.
In late 1974, Gee's advocacy for creating a corporate planning unit was finally rewarded when the Executive Committee voted to establish the Corporate Plans Department and transfer the remainder of the Development Department to a consolidated Central Research and Development Department. By assigning to the Corporate Plans Department primary responsibility for coordinating all of the company's strategic business planning activities, this centralized realignment management of research and development and provided the Executive Committee with greater control over corporate strategy. The department worked closely with members of the Executive Committee to establish priorities for allocating the company's resources by systematically evaluating investment opportunities.
Scope and Contents
The papers of Edwin A. Gee (1920-2013) are incomplete and represent only a small portion of his work in the Development Department and as a member of the Executive Committee. The surviving records have been arranged in two series that document Gee's involvement in important phases of the company's history.
Series I contains records related to efforts directed at improving DuPont's technical information retrieval systems, particularly with regard to patent documentation services. Gee was involved with an early Development Department study of existing patent documentation practices which led to the creation of a central patent index in 1964.
Series II contains records related to the Development Department's diversification program and the Executive Committee's evaluation of the company's research and development strategy, which resulted in the creation of the Corporate Plan Department and a consolidated Central Research and Development Department. These records include Gee's correspondence with research directors and his reports, discussion papers, and memoranda to the Executive Committee. Also included in this series are reports issued by the Committee on Exploratory Research and a Development Department report on the New Venture program and related statistical analysis worksheets.
This collection is open for research. Litigators may not view the collection without approval.
Language of Materials
On Deposit from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company.
- Gee, Edwin Austin, 1920-2013 (Person)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Edwin A. Gee papers
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description:
- 2021: Nicole Kolessar