Oak Ridge chemist and administrator since 1945, Ellison H. Taylor was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1913 and studied physical chemistry at Cornell and Princeton, earning his Ph.D. in 1937. After teaching chemistry at Utah and Cornell, in 1942 he joined the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, where he conducted research on concentrating heavy water and development of the gaseous diffusion process for enriching uranium used at the K-25 plant in Oak Ridge. He joined the Chemical Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1945 and directed the Division from 1954 to 1974.
In addition to molding the laboratory’s physical chemistry programs, Taylor participated in its research. He and colleagues analyzed the effects of ionizing radiation on solid catalysts, stimulating new research ventures, and devised a novel approach to measuring the absorptive forces of gases on solids. Another memorable achievement was his invention with Sheldon Datz of a crossed molecular-beam scattering technique for studying chemical-reaction mechanisms. By sending two focused beams of gases at high speeds on a collision course, they were able to analyze the new molecules thus created, allowing scientists to better understand the dynamic interchange of atoms during chemical reactions.
Taylor retired from the laboratory in 1974. He remained in Oak Ridge and continued his research as consultant to the laboratory and to Atom Sciences, Inc.
Leland Johnson and Daniel Schaffer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory: The First Fifty Years (1994)