Joseph L. O’Brien | November 9, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 45 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 45 | p. 49 | Obituaries
Issue Date: November 9, 2009

Joseph L. O’Brien

Department: ACS News
Keywords: Obituaries, People

Joseph L. O’Brien, 81, a retired industrial research chemist, died at his home in Haddonfield, N.J. on Sept. 18 of complications from dementia.

Born in Los Angeles, O’Brien worked as a child actor—actually serving as Shirley Temple’s body double in two scenes in the classic 1937 movie “Heidi.” He later earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 1948 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from California Institute of Technology in 1952.

O’Brien joined the Rohm and Haas research division in 1951, holding various positions including laboratory head and research supervisor. His work resulted in more than 30 patents and publications in the areas of exploratory organic synthesis, functional monomers, plasticizers for PVC, and flame-retardant plastics.

He joined C. P. Hall in Chicago in 1978 as its associate director of research, managing research and process development of polymeric plasticizers for PVC. He retired as director of R&D in 1992. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1949.

O’Brien is survived by his wife of 12 years, Margaret; a son, Connell; daughters Frances Leon, Mary, Aislinn, and Christina Jelen; five stepchildren; nine grandchildren; and six step-grandchildren. His wife of 35 years, Anne, died in 1991.


Susan J. Ainsworth writes obituaries. Obituary notices may be sent to and should include a detailed educational and professional history.

Chemical & Engineering News
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