Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger

September 21, 1896–August 12, 1985

by David Alan Rego

In Brief

Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger discovered the molecular structure of rubber while conducting dissertation research at New York University. Though many companies sought to buy and patent her work, she didn’t want to limit the knowledge to just a few companies, instead making her discovery available to all. Koenigsberger worked for the Chemical Warfare Service in the 1920s, was chief chemist of the National Voice Amplifying Company in the 1930s, and worked for the War Department during World War II. She was also active in the Washington, D.C., Jewish community, cofounding Temple Sinai with her husband, serving as founding president of the local chapter of B’nai B’rith Women and, through them, establishing a Hillel at George Washington University, and supporting a home for emotionally disturbed children in Jerusalem.


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).

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How to cite this page

Rego, David Alan. "Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 22, 2024) <>.