Stanford, California, United States
New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Swain received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University in 1899. Two years later he earned his Master of Science degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1904 from Yale University.
Swain began his career as an instructor of chemistry at Stanford University in 1900. Two years later he took a position of an assistant professor and associate professor in 1907 at the same university. Then in 1912, Robert became a professor at Stanford University.
Also in 1917, he served as a head of chemistry department at that university and held it until his retirement in 1940 as a professor emeritus. In addition, Swain was an acting president of Stanford University in 1929-1933.
Swain was mayor of Palo Alto, California for three terms from 1914 to 1916 and a member of the city council between 1912-1921.
Swain was a chairman of International Committee on Air Pollution, Committee on Professional Training of Chemists in 1939-1941 and Committee on Biochemical Nomenclature of the National Research Council from 1936 to 1941. Also he was a director of American Chemical Society in 1937-1946.
On August 22, 1900 Robert Swain married Harriet King Cuthbertson. In May 1947, he married Juanita Elena Jaffe. They had two children.