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by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 12, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 19

Marshall W. Cronyn, 88, professor emeritus of chemistry and vice president and provost emeritus of Reed College in Portland, Ore., died on Dec. 30, 2007, from injuries sustained in a single-car automobile accident.

Born in Oakland, Calif., Cronyn grew up in Oregon and earned a B.A. in chemistry in 1940 from Reed. He then hitchhiked to Ann Arbor, Mich., to start graduate work at the University of Michigan under W. E. Bachmann. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry there in 1944, focusing on the synthesis of antimalarials and penicillins throughout his graduate education.

That year, Cronyn accepted a teaching position at the University of California, Berkeley, where he remained until 1952, when he accepted a chemistry professorship at Reed. He also served as the school’s vice president and provost from 1982 until 1988.

Although he retired in 1989, Cronyn remained active in his research lab up to the time of his death. His career resulted in numerous papers and patents, including some in the area of cancer chemotherapeutics.

An emeritus member of ACS, Cronyn joined in 1943.

He is survived by two daughters.


Omar A. Davidson, 56, a retired Merck & Co. chemical engineer and executive, died unexpectedly on Feb. 9.

Born in Jamaica, Davidson came to the U.S. where he received B.S and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from Columbia University.

Upon receipt of his master’s degree in 1974, Davidson joined Merck Research Laboratories’ Chemical Engineering Research & Development (CERD) group in Rahway, N.J., where he worked on process development and manufacture of bulk pharmaceuticals. In 1988, while working at Merck, he also completed Columbia’s executive M.B.A. program.

Throughout his career, Davidson implemented successful technology transfer and plant start-up projects for the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in many of Merck’s major products. He introduced new paradigms in the areas of outsourcing, technology transfer, process safety evaluation, crystallization and other technologies.

In 2003, he was promoted to executive director of the CERD group, leading 180 technical and pilot-plant staff members in Rahway and Okazaki, Japan. He retired in 2005 after 31 years with Merck. He coauthored four publications on engineering process development.

Last month, the Princeton Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers hosted a symposium, “Chemical Engineering Research & Development as a Canvas for Painting a Life,” in Davidson’s memory. He was a member of AIChE and a member of ACS, joining in 1976.

Outside of work, his interests included cheese- and beer-making, games, puzzles, travel, music, literature, and sports.

Davidson is survived by his parents, Louis and Hyacinth; a brother; and four sisters.

Robert J. Gander, 89, a retired Johnson & Johnson organic chemist, died on Feb. 9.

Born in Eagle River, Wis., Gander earned a B.S. in chemistry and an M.S. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1944, he received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he also did postdoctoral work on the U.S. Rubber Reserve Program, which aimed to develop synthetic alternatives to natural rubber.

In 1950, after a five-year stint with Firestone Tire & Rubber in Pottstown, Pa., Gander joined Johnson & Johnson in North Brunswick, N.J., as a senior chemist in the surgical adhesives section. In 1965, he was awarded the Johnson Gold Medal for his work in the development of acrylic copolymer adhesives. This research resulted in improvements in the adhesive quality of Band-Aids.

In 1967, Gander became the company’s manager of polymer research. In 1978, he was appointed the first senior research fellow in Johnson & Johnson R&D. He held more than 40 patents.

He retired from Johnson & Johnson in 1987. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1942.

Gander is survived by his wife of 59 years, Hilda, and two sons, Mark and Malcolm.

Albert Hofmann, 102, who first synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), died from a heart attack on April 29 at his home in Burg, Switzerland.

Born in Baden, Switzerland, Hofmann earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Zurich. After finishing his education, Hofmann went to work for Sandoz Laboratories (now Novartis) in Basel.

He started out studying medicinal plants and the fungus ergot in an effort to develop active ingredients for drugs. In the course of his research, he synthesized LSD in 1938. He didn’t resume further study of the compound until 1943, when he accidentally absorbed a small sample through his fingertips and thus discovered LSD’s psychedelic effects. He went on to perform self-experiments with LSD that same year.

Hofmann eventually became director of the natural products department at Sandoz and continued to study hallucinogenic compounds. Over the course of his career, he identified and synthesized other compounds, some of them nonpsychoactive, for use in medicines.

Hofmann authored or coauthored more than 100 articles and several books, including “LSD: My Problem Child.”

Survivors include two daughters, a son, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Hofmann’s wife, Anita, died in December.

Frederick C. Leavitt, 78, a retired research director at Dow Chemical and a former director of the Council for Chemical Research (CCR), died on Feb. 9, after years of battling Alzheimer's disease.

Born in Albany, N.Y., Leavitt received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1951. He worked at Hercules in Wilmington, Del., before continuing his education, earning a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from the State University of New York, Syracuse, in 1956.

Leavitt then joined Dow Chemical, serving as director of the company’s New England Laboratory in Wayland, Mass., and its halogens, organic chemicals, and analytical laboratories in Midland, Mich. In 1977, Leavitt became the director of Lepetit Pharmaceuticals, a Milan-based company owned by Dow. On returning to the U.S. in 1984, Leavitt became director of government science relations for Dow in Washington, D.C.

After retiring from Dow, Leavitt became the executive director of CCR in Washington, D.C. He also served on the board of directors of the Industrial Research Institute, and was the IRI White House Fellow in the Office of Science & Technology Policy from 1988???89. Leavitt was also a volunteer and member of the board of the nonprofit organization Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. An emeritus member of ACS, he joined in 1957.

Leavitt is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jeanne; two daughters; and one grandson.

Stanley Nesheim, 77, a retired Food & Drug Administration chemist and past-president of the Chemical Society of Washington (CSW), died on Feb. 2.

Born in Chicago, Nesheim lived in Norway as a boy, returning to the U.S. in 1946 to attend high school in Brooklyn, N.Y. He served in the Army during the Korean War. He then earned an undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in 1956 and a master’s degree in chemistry from George Washington University in 1960.

Nesheim began working for FDA in 1957, initially focusing on aflatoxins, toxic metabolites produced by certain fungi in food and animal feed. Throughout his career, he focused on the development of analytical methodology for the study of mycotoxins.

He was president of CSW in 1998 and served as its councilor for three terms during 1998???2006 and an alternate councilor in 2007. He was a member of the ACS Admissions Committee for nine years. He had also been an abstractor for Chemical Abstracts Service.

Nesheim was a member of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, the science honor society Sigma Xi, the Toastmasters Club at FDA, and AOAC (formerly the Association of Official Analytical Chemists). He was also a registered beekeeper and a member of several Scandinavian groups. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1956.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Ellen; two sons; a daughter; and four granddaughters.


William M. Pearlman, 88, a retired Parke-Davis chemist, died on Aug. 24, 2007, in Muskegon, Mich.

Born in Detroit, Pearlman received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Detroit. He then went on serve in the Army Air Corps in Guam during World War II. Upon returning home, he took a job with Parke-Davis in Detroit.

In 1959, Pearlman transferred from Detroit to Ann Arbor, Mich., working as a research chemist for Parke-Davis (now part of Pfizer). He remained with the company for 40 years, conducting research that focused on catalytic hydrogenation. He was one of the founding members of the Organic Reactions Catalysis Society. In 1994, he received the society’s Rylander Award for significant contributions to the use of catalysis in organic reactions. Pearlman was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1941.

He is survived by a son, Barry, and two daughters, Carol Frybarger and Laurie Pearlman. His wife, Mamie, died in 1992.

Brendan F. Somerville, 79, chemist and painter, died on Jan. 28 of congestive heart failure in Vienna, Va.

Born in Dublin, Somerville earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from University College Dublin. After taking a first job as an analytical chemist for a small company, he began working for ACS as a writer and later as head of its bureau in London.

In 1963, he moved to Washington, D.C., to work as a senior editor of Chemical & Engineering News. A decade later, he became a director of innovation, technology, and science policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

Drawing on his knowledge of chemistry to understand the watercolor, gouache, and pastel media he used, Somerville painted naturalistic subjects and semiabstract works. He joined ACS in 1973.

Among his survivors are his wife of 55 years, Bridget (Betty); two daughters, Una and Siobhan; and two grandchildren.


Moshe M. Sternberg, 78, a retired executive at Bayer???s biologicals products division, died on Jan. 25.

Born in Romania, Sternberg received an undergraduate degree from the University of Bucharest in 1952. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Bucharest in 1961 under the direction of Eugenia Soru.

Later that year, he and his family left communist Romania for Israel. After a brief research appointment at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, he began working for Miles Laboratories, which had opened a citric acid plant in Haifa.

In 1965, he transferred to Miles’s Elkhart, Ind., headquarters, progressing up the research ladder to become director of protein research. In 1980, after Bayer acquired Miles, Sternberg assumed the position of vice president of R&D at Bayer’s biological products division in Berkeley, Calif. He remained in that role until his retirement in 1995, after 32 years of continuous service.

Sternberg’s major contribution at Bayer was overseeing the transformation of biological research into biotechnology research, which yielded the Federal Drug Adminstration-licensed process for Recombinant Factor VIII (Kogenate). He held 10 patents in various fields of protein isolation and purification and was author or coauthor of 31 publications.

After retiring, Sternberg served as a senior adviser to Bayer. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught a graduate course on the development of biopharmaceuticals for the chemical engineering department. An emeritus member of ACS, he joined in 1966.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Ella; two children; and four grandchildren.

Edward M. Zemyan, 82, a DuPont chemist in Wilmington, Del., died on Jan. 18.

After serving in the Navy, Zemyan received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of North Dakota and an M.S. in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University.

He worked his entire career with DuPont, beginning with a position at the Savannah River plant in Aiken, S.C., in 1953. In 1962, he was transferred to the elastomers division at the company’s Chambers Works in Deepwater, N.J., retiring there in 1989.

Zemyan received a service award from the Society of the Plastics Industry’s Urethane Raw Materials Technical Committee in 1981. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1951.

Zemyan is survived by his wife of 61 years, Florence; four children; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Obituaries are written by Susan J. Ainsworth. Obituary notices may be sent to and should include detailed educational and professional history.


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