1980 Edward G. Jefferson
Edward G. Jefferson (1921- 2006) earned a Ph.D. at King’s College, University of London, and went to work for DuPont as a chemist in 1951. He moved through managerial positions in the company’s plastics, fluoropolymers, explosives, polymer and film businesses to become a director and member of the Executive Committee in 1973. In 1979 he led a corporate research effort focusing on life sciences, particularly agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and molecular biology. Jefferson became DuPont’s president and chief operating officer in 1980 and chairman a year later.
During that time he pushed for diversification and extensive research and development. He also spearheaded DuPont’s 1981 acquisition of petroleum giant Conoco, Inc., the largest corporate merger up to that time.
The Conoco purchase was an effort to control soaring energy costs and provide DuPont with a secure petrochemical source. Other important acquisitions made by Jefferson included New England Nuclear Corporation, a producer of radioisotope chemicals and radiopharmaceuticals, and Solid State Dielectrics, a supplier of materials used in the manufacture of capacitors. Jefferson also advocated diversification into new technologies like automotive plastics, computer data storage, biomedical products and nontoxic herbicides. He placed particular emphasis on developing commercial applications for biotechnology.
Despite continued research and expansion, however, a nationwide recession combined with stiffening import competition led Jefferson to trim the company’s workforce by offering early retirement incentives to employees in 1985. When Jefferson retired in 1986, he had positioned DuPont for further investment in biotechnology and begun the downsizing the company would need to remain competitive in the global marketplace.