BY DAVID W. MCCALL
W. LINCOLN HAWKINS, a leader in the engineering of polymeric materials for long service life, died at his home in San Marcos, California, on August 20, 1992. Hawkins was employed with Bell Telephone Laboratories (now AT&T Bell Laboratories) from 1942 to 1976. He was assistant director of the Chemical Research Laboratory at the time of his retirement. From 1976 to 1983 he was director of research of the Plastics Institute of America and was also active as an independent materials consultant and an expert witness.
Hawkins was born in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 1911. He attended public schools in Washington and was inspired to enter a technical career by a high school teacher, Dr. James Cowen. He persisted in his studies through the difficult years of the 1930s and received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1932), an M.S. in chemistry from Howard University (1934), and a Ph.D. in chemistry from McGill University in 1938. Hawkins taught at McGill from 1938 to 1941 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University from 1940 to 1942. His doctoral thesis involved the chemistry of lignin, an important component of wood that must be removed in the making of paper. This work resulted in sixteen publications.
Hawkins's arrival at Bell Labs coincided with the beginning of the age of polymers (''plastics'' in vernacular usage, but the field also includes elastomers, thermosets, and other types).