The triad around which a developer "rotates" consists of speed, grain and sharpness. Hank and Dick worked on this triad looking at how the variables affected all three items. And so, Sulfite, Buffer, pH, etc were all fair game. This work was done to lay the foundation of the next generation of developers. Dick and others had wrapped up D76, then Dick went on to make HC-110, and the next generation was done by Dickerson (X-Tol). FWIW, one more generation is lying in the Kodak archives somewhere.
Also, FWIW, the written paper may differ considerably from the internal report. Much material was always edited out of publications due to the confidential nature of the material being deleted. This was also the case with Grant's book. Grant bemoaned the fact that many things were cut from his early drafts. (I was one of the cutters! But, Grant and I are still friends!)
Anyhow, if there was anything worth money in that work it was either confidential and remains so, or it was patented.
Now, it is not impossible to design a developer for all films. In fact, at the time I left Kodak, D-76 was the release developer for production runs of all films. All films were tested against aims in D76 and either passed or failed. So, all films went through one developer. And, looking at Kodak's developer table and time of development curves, you can see results that are good for a number of films.
The only developer that is not able to work across films, is a two bath developer due to different grain types and emulsion thicknesses. You have to optimize things for every film or the two baths will not work right.
Other critical items are pH and buffer capacity along with agitation.
Now, back to Dick and Hank. They were doing this work in about 1960 or earlier with films that do not exist today. You may think that this makes the work obsolete, and it does in a sense. But consider what I have said.... All release tests are done with D76.
I hope that this ramble sheds some light on things.