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Charles J. Knuth

by Susan J. Ainsworth
April 14, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 15

Charles J. Knuth, 89, a retired director of patents at Pfizer, died at his home in Manhasset, N.Y., on Jan. 5.

Born in Queens, N.Y., Knuth earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (PIB, now the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering) in 1944. He then entered the Army and participated in the Army Specialized Training Program at Ohio State University before being recruited to work on the Manhattan Project, first in Oak Ridge, Tenn., then in Los Alamos, N.M. His work focused on purifying enriched fissionable materials for the atomic bomb.

After World War II, Knuth returned to PIB and earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering under Paul F. Bruins in 1949, supported by a Pfizer research assistantship.

Knuth then joined Pfizer’s research division in Brooklyn, where he contributed to numerous discoveries that were patented by the company. He was involved in revising many draft applications prepared by Pfizer’s patent staff, and given his proficiency at the task, he was offered a position in the company’s legal affairs division. He was eventually promoted to become Pfizer’s director of patents and was involved in testifying in numerous patent infringement cases that earned large settlements for the company.

After taking early retirement in 1987, Knuth became a book discussion leader at the Manhasset Public Library. In this new career, which spanned 18 years, he was able to indulge his love of literature. Knuth was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1948.

Knuth’s wife of 49 years, Nancy, died in 2001. He is survived by his daughters, Deborah Klenck, Penelope, Nancy Thompson, and Jane Patukas, and six grandchildren.

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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