Obituary: Weissman, chemist, worked on Manhattan Project

Samuel Isaac Weissman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of chemistry in Arts & Sciences who worked on the Manhattan Project, died Tuesday, June 12, 2007, at McKnight Place Extended Care in St. Louis. He was 94.

Born in South Bend, Ind., in 1912, he was educated in Chicago’s public schools. Weissman attended the University of Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in physical chemistry.

He went to the University of California, 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 was cut short by World War II. 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.

According to his son, Michael Weissman, Ph.D., professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, despite his father’s intimate knowledge of how to build an atomic bomb, in the Sen. Joseph McCarthy years, he was denied security clearance to do summer work on essentially non-military magnetic resonance projects at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The most serious charge was that his mother had given money to a collection for the Spanish Republican government.

The security clearance was restored by 1954.

Weissman came to WUSTL in 1946. The group of six who came to St. Louis from Los Alamos — Lindsay Helmholz, Joseph Kennedy, David Lipkin, Herbert Potratz, Arthur Wahl and Weissman — founded the modern Department of Chemistry at WUSTL.

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

Although he became an emeritus professor in 1980, until recently, he was an almost daily 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 1963 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1966.

Weissman donated his body to science.

A memorial service will be held Aug. 16 in Graham Chapel, with a reception following in the Ann W. Olin Women’s Building.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife, Jane Loevinger, Ph.D., the William R. Stuckenberg Professor Emerita; a sister, Florence Packman of Los Angeles; and two grandsons.