Skip Navigation

Paul Gross

Dr. Paul M. Gross, ORAU president from 1949-1970.

Dr. Paul M. Gross was one of five incorporators of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS), now Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), when it was founded in 1946. Gross was a member of the board of directors of ORINS/ORAU from its incorporation in 1946 until 1969 and served as its president from 1949 until 1970.

He played a crucial role in the development of ORINS's operating arrangements with the Atomic Energy Commission. In the June 14, 1946, issue of Science, Vol. 103, No. 2685, pages 705-6, he wrote the article “A Nuclear Research Institute at Oak Ridge.” In it, he outlined the rationale for a national laboratory in the South. Today, ORAU is operating under this same contract he negotiated in 1947, with only modest revisions in its operational details.

In ORAU: From the Beginning, published by ORAU in 1980, Dr. William G. Pollard wrote, “The leadership [that] Paul Gross gave ORINS as president for the next 21 years [after ORINS was founded in 1946] was a major factor in its growth and competence. His scientific stature and his wisdom in management were invaluable.”

Gross had a 46-year career at Duke University in Durham, N.C. He served 11 years as vice president for academic affairs, 27 years as chairman of the chemistry department, and 5 years as dean of the Graduate School. An internationally respected scientist, Gross was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1962 and then served the next year as chairman of the association’s board of directors. Gross retired from the Duke faculty in 1965.

He received scores of honors during his career, among them the designation by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 as an Honorary Commander of the Civil Order of the British Empire. Gross also held the President’s Medal for Merit, awarded in 1948 for his World War II development of a frangible bullet used in aerial gunnery practice.

For his contributions to Duke, he was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree by the university in 1975 during its 50th anniversary celebration. Gross Chemical Laboratory, a 160,000 square-foot building on Duke’s West Campus, was named for him in 1968.

President Harry S. Truman appointed Gross to the National Science Foundation at its founding in 1950. He was reappointed by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, serving until 1962. Gross also was chairman of the U.S. Surgeon General's committee that put together the landmark 1961 report on environmental health problems that led to the establishment of federal environmental programs.

In 1962, he was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 1969 he received the Atomic Energy Commission Citation for outstanding service to the nation’s nuclear energy program.

A native of New York City, Gross earned his bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York in 1916. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, and later did postgraduate study at the University of Leipzig in Germany and Oxford University in England.

He died on May 4, 1986, at the age of 91.