Longtime NESACS contributor, philanthropist, political activist, chemist and entrepreneur, Arthur S. Obermayer passed away on January 10, 2016. Arthur was born in Philadelphia on July 17, 1931. He received his S.B. from Swarthmore in 1952 and his Ph.D. from M.I.T. in 1956 from C. G. Swain.
Dr. Obermayer founded Moleculon, a research and development company in Kendall Square in the 1961. He also served NESACS in many roles including serving as Section Chair in 1982, Councilor, and as a Trustee from 1983-1986. He was a founding member of the Esselen Award Committee.
Arthur is survived by his wife of 52 years Dr. Judith (Hirschfield) Obermayer; his children, Joel, Hank and Marjorie; his brother, Herman and five grandchildren.
Before the awarding of the 2009 Arno Heyn Book Prize, I was only vaguely aware of Arthur Obermayer despite his 60 years as an ACS member and his long involvement with the chemistry department at M.I.T.
he Heyn Award committee in previous years had awarded the prize to more recent contributors to the publications of NESACS. Our 2009 chair, Joe Billo, advised us to consider Arthur Obermayer because he was the driving force behind the creation of the first NESACS Website in 1996. (You can read Arthur’s description of the website creation in his award address published on page 13 of the Summer 2010 Issue of the Nucleus).
Also in conjunction with Dr. Obermayer’s receiving of the Heyn Book Prize, Mindy Levine published an interview, which demonstrates the depth of his contributions, not only in the United States, but worldwide. Mindy’s article echoes a lifetime of achievement in, what was at the time, the present tense, but is now, sadly, being written by others in the past tense.
Arthur’s awards from NESACS did not stop with the Arno Heyn Book Prize in 2009. In 2013 Arthur received the Northeastern Section’s highest honor, The Henry A. Hill Award for Meritorious Service to the Northeastern Section.
As part of the events surrounding the awarding of the 2012 Henry Hill Award, Arthur talked about his long relationship with Henry Hill and how they had started in business together, sharing office space at Moleculon, before Henry went off on his own to similar great accomplishments.
As I studied the list of past recipients of the Hill Award at the 2012 Award Meeting, I was surprised (and a bit embarrassed) that Arthur had not received the award, and mentioned the oversight to Dorothy Phillips.
The January 2014 Nucleus features on the cover a photo from the 2013 Henry A. Hill Award. On that cover (LR) is a beaming Adelaide Cromwell Hill (Henry’s widow), Judith Obermayer (Arthur’s wife), Anthony Cromwell Hill (Henry’s son), Arthur Obermayer and Dorothy Phillips (chair of the Hill Award Committee).
Also in that issue you will find Arthur’s Henry A. Hill Award Address in which he talks in depth about the early days of Moleculon and his relationship with the entire Hill family. He also shared vintage photos of their shared office and photos from a joint project they did at Yucca Mountain.
We are greatly saddened that this great and influential man will no longer be with us. Here are a few comments from NESACS Board members:
“Arthur Obermayer’s role in the history of chemistry and of the Northeastern Section was tremendous. I first came to know him meeting in a small group in his living room as we planned to implement his bold idea to create a Northeastern Section web site. Only in the years afterward did I come to realize his critical contributions in so many aspects of chemistry and the history of our Section. The lecture in which he accepted the Hill Award featured priceless slides of early days of Arthur and Henry Hill documenting how they broke new ground in so many ways, and Arthur’s contributions to the Hill symposium were critical depictions of chemical history. We had been talking about ways that these would be permanently preserved; I hope that this preservation work will carry on and that the Hill Symposium will result in a book that includes Arthur’s contributions.” – Doris Lewis
“Extraordinarily sad news!
At this time of sorrow we pray that God grants all the strength to bear this irreparable loss with dignity and fortitude. We share the family’s sorrow; kindly rest assured that we all pray for the everlasting peace for the soul of the dear departed.
I will forever cherish the memories of my association (however brief it was) with Art and entertain very fond memories of the meeting with Art, particularly at NESACS. He was a consummate gentleman who ennobled others by his very presence. He lived a full life and his demise leaves an enormous void in our midst. Everybody who met him will long cherish fond memories of their friendship with him.
As he joins others in the Heaven and Stars, may his spirit continue to be an inspiration to all. What a deserving Henry Hill award winner and ACS Fellow he was.
Requiescat in Pace!” – Mukund Chorghade
More information can be found in the links below: