Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger
1896 – 1985
A distinguished chemist credited with discovering the structure of rubber, Irene Caroline Koenigsberger was also an important figure in the Washington, D.C., Jewish community.
Born in New York City on September 21, 1896, she was the eldest child of Jacob Diner, a professor of chemistry and founder and dean of the Fordham University Pharmacy School, and Jeannette (DëLowe) Diner. While her younger brother, Milton, embarked on a career as a successful businessman in New York City, young Irene’s interest in science was encouraged by her parents.
She was educated at Hunter College, Columbia University, and New York University, where she received her doctorate in chemistry in 1921.
While conducting dissertation research on the molecular structure of rubber, Koenigsberger discovered a method for determining the life of rubber products. Companies sought to purchase the rights to her discovery, which was important to the growing automotive tire industry in the United States, but she refused, reasoning that such a sale would keep her discovery secret and would benefit only certain manufacturers.
In the 1920s, Koenigsberger was an associate chemist for the Chemical Warfare Service and a research consultant in rubber and microscopy in Washington, D.C. In the 1930s, she was chief chemist at the National Voice Amplifying Company, and during World War II she was employed by the U.S. War Department. Koenigsberger was also a fellow of the American Institute of Chemists and a member of the American Chemical Society.
In 1922, she married Lawrence Koenigsberger, a Washington, D.C., lawyer. With her husband, she founded Temple Sinai in Washington, serving as honorary vice president. Koenigsberger was active in B’nai B’rith Women throughout her life and served as the first president of District Five. She also established the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at George Washington University. Under her guidance, B’nai B’rith Women supported a home for emotionally disturbed children in Jerusalem. A founder of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, Koenigsberger was also a board member of the National Council of Jewish Women in Washington.
In 1980, Koenigsberger received the Hunter College Distinguished Alumna Medal in recognition of her achievements in science and civic affairs.
Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger died at her home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on August 12, 1985, at age eighty-seven.
AJYB 87 (1985): 440; Obituary. NYTimes, August 18, 1985; WWIAJ (1938).