Obituaries | September 8, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 36 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 36 | pp. 61-62 | Obituaries
Issue Date: September 8, 2008


Department: ACS News

John A. Beel, 86, University of Northern Colorado distinguished emeritus professor, died on Jan. 12.

A native of Butte, Mont., Beel attended Montana School of Mines for two years before graduating with a B.S. in chemistry from Montana State University in 1942. He earned a Ph.D. from Iowa State University, Ames, in 1949 under the direction of Henry Gilman.

Beel then moved to the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley, to become an assistant professor of chemistry and its only instructor in chemistry at the time. He helped to build the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the university, serving as department chair until 1971, when he became the university's associate dean of arts and sciences. Beel also initiated the university's chemistry and biochemistry master's and doctoral degree programs.

Beel's research concentrated on organometallic compounds including n-butyllithium, benzothiazoles, and phenyllithium. He authored or coauthored numerous publications.

He retired in 1984 but volunteered to teach a class each fall until 2000, thereby reaching 50 consecutive years of teaching at the university.

Beel was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1946. He served on many ACS committees and as a councilor and chair of the ACS Colorado Section.

He is survived by his wife, Lavonne; and two sons, John Jr. and Jeffrey.

Harmon L. Finston
Harmon L. Finston

Harmon L. Finston, 86, professor emeritus at Brooklyn College at the City University of New York, died on June 15 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

Born in Chicago, Finston earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1943. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Manhattan Project as a junior chemist in the metallurgical laboratory at the University of Chicago.

After World War II, Finston resumed his studies at Ohio State University where he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1950. He then joined Brookhaven National Laboratory and headed the Radiochemical Analysis Section of BNL's nuclear engineering department from 1951 to 1963.

In 1963, Finston joined the chemistry faculty at Brooklyn College as a full professor, remaining there until his retirement in 1988. Finston's research interests included analysis of fission products and decay chains, characterization of artificially produced radioactivity, analytical instrumentation, neutron activation analysis, chemical separation techniques, electrode studies, environmental analysis, and nuclear reactions.

He was a member of the National Research Council Committee on Nuclear Science (Subcommittees on Radiochemistry and Radioactivity Standards) and served on the ASTM Subcommittee on Fuel Burnup Analysis.

In addition to publishing more than 100 scientific papers, Finston contributed chapters to two radiochemical treatises and coauthored the monograph "A New View of Current Acid-Base Theories" in 1982. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1948.

Finston is survived by his wife of 58 years, Edythe; four children, Martin, David, Leo, and Mira; and six grandchildren.

Howard T. (Tracy) Hall
Howard T. (Tracy) Hall

Howard T. (Tracy) Hall, 88, the first person to synthesize diamond in a reproducible process, died in his home on July 25.

Born in Ogden, Utah, Hall had earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry at the University of Utah by 1943, when he began two years of service as a Navy ensign. Returning to the University of Utah in 1946, Hall earned a Ph.D. in 1948 as Henry Eyring's first graduate student.

Two months later, he started work at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, N.Y. At GE, Hall joined a team focused on synthesizing diamond, and on Dec. 16, 1954, he became the first person to produce diamond from carbon through a verifiable and reproducible process and a press of his own design.

In 1955, Hall became director of research at Brigham Young University (BYU), where he remained for more than 30 years as a professor of chemistry. During that time he also invented the tetrahedral and cubic presses, which allowed him to continue his research in the field of high pressure.

In 1966, Hall partnered with two BYU professors, Bill Pope and M. Duane Horton, to form MegaDiamond, a company that manufactures diamond products for industrial applications.

In 1965, Hall received the Utah Award from ACS's Central Utah and Salt Lake Sections. In 1972, he received the ACS Award for Creative Invention. Hall was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1947.

He served as a bishop in the Provo, Utah, Pleasant View 1st Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He and his wife, Ida-Rose, also served a full-time mission to Zimbabwe and South Africa in 1982. In his retirement, Hall worked on his tree farm in Payson, Utah.

Hall's wife died in 2005. He is survived by seven children, Sherlene, H. Tracy, David, Elizabeth, Virginia, Charlotte, and Nancy; 35 grandchildren; and 53 great-grandchildren.

H. Wayne Hill
H. Wayne Hill

H. Wayne Hill Jr., 83, an accomplished polymer research chemist, died on May 17, in Liberty Lake, Wash., after a lengthy illness.

Born in Springfield, Ill., Hill began studying chemistry at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., in 1942. In June 1944, he entered the Army, completing basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. He was then assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program at Oregon State College, in Corvallis, where he studied electrical engineering.

After his discharge from the Army in 1946 as a technical sergeant, Hill returned to Millikin University, where he earned a B.A. in chemistry in 1947. He then earned a master's degree in chemistry in 1948 and a doctorate in organic chemistry in 1950, both at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Hill then secured a one-year research fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology during which he focused on the synthesis of penicillin.

In 1951, Hill accepted a research position with DuPont in Wilmington, Del., where he worked with other polymer science pioneers in the production of synthetic fibers. Hill conducted basic research on aramid fibers, which supported the invention of Nomex and Kevlar.

In 1961, Hill began working for Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Okla., where he managed and led a polymer research team. While at Phillips, he coinvented the process for commercially producing polyphenylene sulfide, a high-performance engineering plastic known as Ryton.

Following a 24-year career with Phillips, Hill retired as the company's coordinator for corporate research planning. He then formed a consulting practice, providing technical expertise related to engineering plastics.

He held 31 patents and authored 51 technical publications in the field of polymer chemistry. Hill was active in the Society of Plastics Engineers and was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1948.

He is survived by his wife, June; two children, Nancy and David; and four grandchildren.

William G. Ray, 88, a Pfizer chemicals sales manager, died on Aug. 1 in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., Ray grew up in Blue Ridge, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1941 with a degree in chemistry. He was a chemist for the Tennessee Valley Authority until he began a long sales career with the chemical division of Pfizer, where he eventually became national sales manager. Ray retired in 1984.

A longtime resident of Mountain Lakes, N.J., Ray served as senior warden of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1946.

His wife, Frances, predeceased him in 1999. He is survived by a daughter, Lynnda Barnish; one grandchild; and three nieces and nephews.

Erwin Sheppard, 87, a distinguished research chemist focused on cardiovascular disease and aging, died of aspiration pneumonia in Oak Park, Ill., on June 11.

Born in New York City, Sheppard received a B.S. degree from the College of the City of New York in 1941. He was then inducted into the Army as a private. In 1944, he received a direct commission in the Sanitary Corps of the Medical Department of the U.S. Air Force.

He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1951 at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, benefitting from a DuPont research fellowship from 1947 until 1949.

Sheppard began his career as part of the research staff at Cornell Medical College's New York Hospital, where he worked with Irving S. Wright, an authority on cardiovascular disease and the physical problems of aging. In 1957, he joined S. C. Johnson, serving as the physical research supervisor in the chemical research department. He published more than 20 scientific publications.

He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1945. He was also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, the Midwest Society of Electron Microscopists, the Electron Microscope Society of America, and the Society for Applied Spectroscopy.

Sheppard is survived by his wife, Hilda; and two daughters, Marianne Bailey and Laura.

Robert Simha
Robert Simha

Robert Simha, 95, a polymer physics pioneer and an emeritus professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve University, died on June 5 at his home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Born in Vienna, Simha earned a Ph.D. in physics and physical chemistry in 1935 from the University of Vienna. In preparing his doctoral thesis, "Contributions to Colloid Hydrodynamics," he was influenced by his discussions with Herman Mark and Eugene Guth, who were interested in relationships between polymer solution viscosity and molecular weight.

This work kindled Simha's lifelong interest in polymer rheology, which he studied in subsequent postdoctoral and faculty positions at six U.S. universities, as well as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), which is now the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

During a 1938 postdoctoral stint at Columbia University, Simha also developed a new interest in the kinetic theory of chain degradation and depolymerization; his work was later tested at NBS. Later, while holding a position in New York University's department of chemical engineering, Simha initiated a third research direction into statistical thermodynamics of the liquid state.

In 1958, Simha moved to the University of Southern California, where he collaborated with Thomas Somcynsky to formulate a successful theoretical equation of state for polymers, which applies to blends, foams, and nanocomposites.

Simha joined Case Western Reserve University in 1968, where his most recent research focused on relaxation phenomena in the glassy state and positron measurements of free volume. He retired from Case Western in 1983, but he remained a productive scientist until his death.

Simha received many accolades, including the Bingham Medal of the Society of Rheology in 1973 and the 1981 Polymer Physics Prize of the American Physical Society. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1939.

His wife, Genevieve, predeceased him by 10 years.

George A. Trigaux, 83, a chemical business executive, died on May 29 in Sierra Vista, Ariz., after a long battle with cancer.

Born in Charleston, W.Va., Trigaux attended the University of West Virginia before being selected for an accelerated engineering and officer training program for the Navy at Georgia Institute of Technology. After earning a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering there, he went into active duty, serving on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Mindoro in the Pacific until the end of World War II.

Trigaux then began working as a chemical engineer for Union Carbide, in Charleston. In 1955, he transferred to the company headquarters in New York City to head its new products division. He eventually left Union Carbide to start Norfield Corp., which produced high-strength, lightweight plastics used in aircraft wings and other applications.

After several years as an entrepreneur, Trigaux accepted the position of president of the U.S. arm of Firmenich Corp., a Swiss flavor and fragrance company. He later became head of PFW, another flavor and fragrance company, in Middletown, N.Y., before retiring.

Trigaux is survived by his wife of 62 years, June; three children; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.


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

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