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Erich Heftmann

by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 5, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 18

Erich Heftmann, 95, a government chemist, died on Jan. 18 at his home in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Heftmann immigrated to the U.S. in 1939 after the Austrian Anschluss. He earned a B.A. in chemistry from New York University in 1942 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Rochester in 1947.

Heftmann worked at the National Institutes of Health from 1948 until 1963, when he moved to California Institute of Technology to carry out an NIH-related project. He then served as a research chemist within the Department of Agriculture from 1969 until his retirement in 1983.

An expert in the field of chromatography, Heftmann studied plant steroids and their role in plant biology. In 1961, he developed the Robot Analyzer, a precursor to instruments that use high-pressure liquid chromatography techniques, to facilitate his work, and he was the first to show the presence of cholesterol in plants.

His research resulted in nearly 200 publications as well as two books, including “Chromatography,” which has been a standard reference.

He served as symposium editor of the Journal of Chromatography from 1982 to 2008, handling nearly 5,000 papers. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1944.

Heftmann is survived by his wife, Brigitte (Bibi); son, Rex; daughter, Lisa Wintner; stepson, David Olan; stepdaughter, Karen Olan; and seven 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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