Manhattan Project researcher and WUSTL chemist Samuel Weissman dies at 94

Samuel Isaac Weissman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of chemistry who had worked on the Manhattan Project, died Tuesday (June 12, 2007) at 2 McKnight Place at the age of 94. He was a longtime resident of St. Louis.

Born in South Bend, Ind., on June 25, 1912, he was educated in Chicago’s public schools. Weissman attended the University of Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in physical chemistry. He went to the University of California at Berkeley and worked as a National Research Council Fellow with physical chemist Gilbert Newton Lewis. During this time, he worked on optical properties of rare earths, laying the foundation for certain lasers and some resonant energy transfer methods.

Weissman’s work at Berkeley, however, was cut short by the war. He was one of the first to arrive at Los Alamos, N.M., where he was assigned to work on the Manhattan Project, the development of the first atomic bomb.

At Washington University, he pioneered the use of electron spin resonance in chemistry in collaboration with other scientists. This developed into his primary work.

He joined the Department of Chemistry at Washington University in 1946. He became an emeritus professor in 1980 although until just recently he was a regular presence in the department discussing research and planning experiments with colleagues and students. Weissman was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1966 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1966.

Weissman donated his body to science. A memorial service is being planned with a tentative date set for August 15.

In addition to his son, Michael Weissman, professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, among the survivors are his wife, Jane Loevinger of St. Louis; a sister, Florence Packman of Los Angeles; and two grandsons.