July 29, 2013

Simon Bauer, professor emeritus of chemistry, dies

Simon Bauer

Simon Bauer, professor emeritus of chemistry and chemical biology, died July 14 in Davis, Calif., at the age of 101.

Bauer joined the Cornell chemistry faculty in 1939 and received emeritus status in 1977. He continued to work with graduate students, receive grants and publish papers until 2005. In October 2011, the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology held a symposium on campus in honor of Bauer’s 100th birthday.

The author or co-author of close to 400 publications, most of Bauer’s work was built around two major themes: molecular structure determination by diffraction and spectroscopic techniques, and kinetics of fast reactions and of chemical processes at high temperatures. In studying the probabilities of energy transfers in elementary processes, Bauer pioneered the use of shock tubes for the study of reaction kinetics at high temperatures, and he later built on those experiments by using lasers to investigate energy transfer and photochemistry.

In the later part of his career, in collaboration with Charles F. Wilcox, professor emeritus of chemistry and chemical biology, and postdoctoral associate Yi-Xue Zhang, Bauer contributed insights into the kinetics of condensation, as well as of gas-phase pyrolysis, combining experiment, theory and computer simulation.

Benjamin Widom, professor emeritus of chemistry and chemical biology and Bauer’s former Ph.D. student, said he is, to this day, grateful to Bauer for both teaching him chemistry and remaining a friend.

“He was my teacher and my friend, and I think of him that way still,” Widom said. “It was inspiring in recent years to see his continuing interest and dedication to science, still writing interesting and provocative essays, and giving talks on a wide range of scientific subjects well into his 100th year.”

Bauer received many professional honors. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society, a National Science Foundation exchange fellow, and he received the United States Senior Scientist Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Bauer was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, Oct. 12, 1911, and emigrated to the United States in 1921. He received his bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees in 1931 and 1935, respectively, from the University of Chicago.

Bauer is survived by his children, grandson and great-granddaughter. A memorial service, on a date to be announced, will be held at his retirement community in Davis, where he had lived since 2005.