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."