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by Rachel Petkewich
May 29, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 22

Alvin I. Kosak, 81, an emeritus professor of chemistry at New York University, died on Jan. 31.

He earned a bachelor's degree at the City College of New York in 1943 and completed a doctorate at Ohio State University in 1948.

Kosak joined NYU in 1952 as an assistant professor. He chaired the chemistry department through the early 1960s and '70s. He served as acting dean during 1977 and 1978 for the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and as director of graduate studies during the 1980s. He retired in 1995.

Colleagues remember Kosak as a passionate teacher and distinguished researcher. His work included the synthesis of heterocycles, thiophene chemistry, and isolation and structural determination of natural products. He also created a "smoking machine" in the 1950s that enabled faster production of smoke and more efficient isolation of chemicals inhaled during tobacco smoking.

He is survived by his wife, Judy, and three children. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1944.

Grace L. Priest, 91, retired chief physical chemist of the Materials Research Laboratory, U.S. Army Materials Research Agency, Watertown Arsenal, in Massachusetts, died on Oct. 20, 2005.

Priest was born in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. She received her bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1935 and master's degree in 1936, both from the University of New Hampshire. While her husband, Homer F. Priest, pursued a doctorate at Columbia University with Nobel Laureate Harold C. Urey, she researched uranium hexafluoride in the same chemistry department.

Both she and her husband were enlisted to work on the Manhattan Project. During 1941-44, she performed materials research to develop barriers for the separation of uranium isotopes in the gaseous diffusion process in the chemistry division at the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In 1948-50, she worked at the U.S. Army Chemical Center, Edgewood Arsenal, in Maryland. As a result of all of her efforts, she was recognized as an international authority on the chemistry of uranium hexafluoride.

In 1957, Priest became a senior chemist at the U.S. Army Materials & Mechanics Research Laboratory where she researched materials and analyzed energetic materials using neutron activation analysis. She retired in 1980.

Priest was an avid birder who spent many of her winter vacations in Florida to observe and photograph in the Everglades. She also belonged to many nature organizations. An emeritus member, she joined ACS in 1946. Her husband, also an emeritus member, died in 2004.

John E. Reissner, 64, professor emeritus in chemistry and physics at the University of North Carolina, Pembroke, died unexpectedly on April 15.


He was born in Boston and received an A.B. degree in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1964. He earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, San Diego, in 1972. After three years of postdoctoral study at Pennsylvania State University, Reissner joined the faculty at UNC Pembroke. Colleagues say he served as a vital member of the faculty until his death and that his kind nature, friendly smile, and sharp intellect will be fondly remembered. They also recall that Reissner, a church deacon, had a penchant for owning notoriously fast cars and conscientiously driving them slowly and safely.

He is survived by his wife, Zollene, and two children. He joined ACS in 1973.

Lydia Savedoff, 85, a physical chemistry professor retired from California State University, Northridge, died on March 24.

Born in New York City, she received an A.B. from Hunter College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. As an undergraduate student, she worked briefly on the Manhattan Project. She also did research at Ohio State University and the University of Washington's School of Medicine. While at Ohio State in 1948, she calculated thermodynamic properties from spectral data with very early versions of today's computers.

She began her teaching career at Gonzaga University before joining the faculty of California State University, Northridge (then called San Fernando Valley State College), in 1960. She achieved the rank of full professor in 1967. While on the faculty of California State, Northridge, she spent two sabbatical leaves at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

After her retirement, Savedoff moved to Laguna Hills, Calif., where she pursued her longtime interest in photography. An emeritus member, she joined ACS in 1946.

Arthur C. Wahl, 88, who as a graduate student was a member of the research team that discovered plutonium, died on March 6 of Parkinson's disease and pneumonia.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Wahl graduated from Iowa State University in 1939 with a bachelor's degree. In graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, Wahl worked to isolate element 94 with Joseph Kennedy. When Kennedy went home for the night, Wahl stayed to complete the isolation. Team leader Glenn T. Seaborg, who would later win a Nobel Prize, reported the results to the Uranium Committee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May 1941. Wahl wrote his dissertation on the discovery of plutonium and received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1942.

Wahl was a group leader in the Nuclear Chemistry Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1943 to 1946, but he spent the majority of his career as a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1983, he retired and moved back to Los Alamos. Wahl had maintained an association with LANL during his years in St. Louis, and he maintained an office at LANL for many years after his retirement from Washington University. Colleagues remember Wahl as shy and good-natured.

An emeritus member, Wahl joined ACS in 1940. In 1966, he won the Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Mary; a daughter; and a grandson.

Richard G. Waterman, 73, a patent attorney, died of pancreatic cancer on May 9.

He earned both B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from Montana State University. He also held a law degree from Case Western Reserve University.

When Waterman retired in 1994, he had spent almost 40 years with Dow Chemical. He worked in the research and patent departments, headed business and government development in Brazil, and worked as general patent counsel for 16 years. He was also active in patent law organizations.

Waterman enjoyed many sports, including racquetball and bowling, but golfed with passion. Among his many community activities, he coached youth baseball and participated at his church.

Waterman is survived by his wife of 21 years, Patricia; two children from a previous marriage; and a granddaughter.


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