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Memorial

Moses Gomberg
The Michigan Alumnus 255

MOSES GOMBERG, '90, M.S. '92,
Sc.D. '94, LL.D. (Hon.) '37.
Professor Emeritus and World Renowned
 Chemist Dies At University Hospital.


MOSES GOMBERG, '90, M.S.'92,
 Sc.D.'94, LL.D.(Hon.)'37, Pro
fessor Emeritus of Organic Chemistry,
 one of the world's foremost authorities 
on the subject and one of the most 
notable in the University's roster of
 great scholars, died at University hos
pital early in the morning of February
12. He had been ill with heart trouble 
for three weeks, and had just cele
brated his 81st birthday as a patient
 in the hospital.


A Past President of the American
 Chemical Society, Professor Gomberg 
had received numerous honors through
out his distinguished career, including 
the Nichols Medal of the American 
Chemical Society, the Willard Gibbs
 Medal and the Chandler Medal. He 
was one of the few people holding
 membership in the National Academy
 of Sciences, and was a Past Vice-
President of the American Association 
for the Advancement of Science.


Born in Russia, February 8, 1866, 
Professor Gomberg spent his childhood
 in Elizabetgrad and attended the Gym
nasium there until he was eighteen. A 
short time later he came to the United
 States and entered the University. 
 While a student he served as an assist
ant to Professor A. B. Prescott, and he
 was named Instructor in 1893. His 
work early showed originality and he 
gained much experience and some dis
tinction when a leave of absence gave 
him the opportunity to study at
 Munich and at Heidelberg. Professor 
Gomberg was especially noted for his
 work with free radicals, and he was 
the discoverer of trivalent carbon,
 made when he was attempting to syn
thesize hexaphenylethane. He was also
 noted for his work on tautomerism in
triphenylmethane series and with ethyl
ene chlorhyden.


During the first World War, Profes
sor Gomberg was called to act as Con
sulting Chemist for the Bureau of
 Mines, and as a Major in the Army 
Ordnance Department. He was the 
first to discover the secret of preparing 
the basic material of mustard gas used 
by the Germans.


From 1889 to 1902, he had served
 as Assistant Professor, followed by 
two years as Junior Professor. In 1904 
he was promoted to full Professor, and 
in 1927 was named Chairman of the
 Department of Inorganic Chemistry. 
 He retired from his faculty post in
 February 1936, when he became sev
enty years old. 



In addition to his numerous discov
eries, which also included the first
 satisfactory anti-freeze compound used
 in automobile radiators. Professor 
Gomberg had contributed many 
articles to chemical journals and had
 published many treatises based on
 original material.


He had lived with his sister, Sonia 
Gomberg, '92-'94, his only survivor,
 at 712 Onondaga, Ann Arbor.
 From Frederic W. Willard, '06, A.M. 
(Hon.)'29, g'05-'06, of Summit, N. J.,
 there has come a sincere appreciation
 of Dr. Gomberg as a teacher and a 
humanitarian:


"Four and forty years ago I was so
 fortunate as to come under the instruc
tion of Moses Gomberg. To me he was 
more than a great teacher; he was an
 elder brother. During all these years 
his wisdom, his humor, his uncanny 
understanding of human frailty has
 been my constant inspiration. Within
 two months preceding his death I received two delightful letters written in 
his usual humorous vein.


"Others are more competent to
 evaluate his great contributions to
 science. Creative as these were, they
 are overshadowed by his qualities of 
human understanding. He was deeply 
interested in the human relations at 
the root of our industrial civilization.
 Many have been the talks we have had
 on this subject. Though he lived under 
the shelter of an academic environ
ment, he was not lacking in worldly 
wisdom, nor sympathy for the under-
privileged. The turmoil of the world
 troubled his gentle spirit.


"On his seventieth birthday a group 
of his former students contributed to 
a fund which we hoped he would accept
 as a token of our affection. His old 
friend, Richard Willstaetter, was liv
ing as an exile in Switzerland. We 
hoped that Professor Gomberg would
 use the money to make another trip to 
Europe, particularly to see Willstaet
ter, whom he dearly loved. He was
 adamant. He would not accept the
 money, saying that he had all he
 needed to do whatever he wished to do. 
 He suggested that if we were willing, 
 the money be given to the University 
for the nucleus of a loan fund to help 
outstanding, but needy undergraduates.


"It was my privilege to be his host 
at the presentation of the Willard
 Gibbs Medal. In his address on that
 occasion he rose to the same pitch of
 enthusiasm with which he had inspired 
his classes in organic chemistry. His 
prophecy has been largely fulfilled by
 the developments of the succeeding 
twenty years. 


"I have lost my best friend, but I
 rejoice that he lived, and lived so 
abundantly."