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Robert S. Marianelli

by Susan J. Ainsworth
April 7, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 14

Robert S. Marianelli.

Robert S. Marianelli, 72, a major figure who helped shape many of the U.S. government’s chemical sciences activities in the 1980s and 1990s, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) on Dec. 22, 2013, in Columbia, Md.

Born in Wilmington, Del., Marianelli earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Delaware in 1963 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966.

He then accepted a faculty position in the department of chemistry at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. There he helped invigorate the graduate program in chemistry by revising the curriculum and emphasizing research.

Marianelli moved to Washington, D.C., in 1977 to join the Energy Research & Development Administration, which later became part of the Department of Energy.

At DOE, Marianelli rose from the rank of program manager to become director of the Chemical Sciences Division. He fostered the careers of many exceptional chemists, including six who later received Nobel Prizes.

Marianelli was instrumental in establishing major research facilities including the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia National Laboratories, and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource lab. He also partnered with the National Science Foundation to develop the Environmental Molecular Science Institutes.

In 1998, Marianelli accepted a position as assistant director for physical sciences and engineering with the Office of Science & Technology Policy in the Clinton Administration.

In retirement, Marianelli served on the advisory board for the chemistry department at the University of Nebraska. He also established the university’s Chemistry Faculty Remembrance Fund, which provides for an annual undergraduate or graduate student award named in honor of a dedicated university faculty member. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1967.

Marianelli is survived by his wife, Kathy; sisters, Maria Kwiatkowski and Ann Clawson; and brother, John.

Obituary notices of no more than 300 words may be sent to Susan J. Ainsworth at and should include an educational and professional history.


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