Skip to content

College mourns Prof. William B. Martin


William B. Martin, Jr., professor of chemistry emeritus, died Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. He was 87.

An organic chemist whose interests ranged to environmental protection, international exchange and employment training, he taught at Union from 1953 to 1989.

He was born in Winchendon, Mass., August 31, 1923 and lived in Ashburnham, Mass. He rose to the rank of Eagle Scout and went on to serve in the Navy Air Corps from 1943 to 1945.

He attended Clark University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1948 and a master’s in 1949. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Yale University in 1953.

At his retirement in 1989, colleague Tom Werner remarked that Martin was “hitting the tape running.” Martin had recently published in the leading chemical journal, directed the research of more students than any other department member (co-authoring conference papers with five) and had organized regional meetings of the American Chemical Society.

He served for 20 years as chairman of the student exchange with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He was one of the first two faculty members elected to the College’s Board of Trustees, serving two five-year terms.

He was active in the American Chemical Society and a member for 62 years. He co-developed Project Mercury for the eastern New York section of ACS to train underemployed and high school dropouts for employment as chemical technicians for local businesses.

He wrote or co-wrote for grants from the National Science Foundation for a gas-chromatograph mass spectrometer for the College, a federal grant for Project Mercury, and a National Institutes of Health fellowship for research in photochemistry at MIT.

He published more than two dozen papers in journals including the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Helvetica Chimica Acta, Journal of Physical Chemistry and Physiological Zoology.

Among his awards during his 36 years at Union were the Faculty Meritorious Service Award (1984), the Lehninger Award for Encouragement of Free Speech (1966), a fellowship at MIT’s School of Advanced Studies (1951-1961); and membership in Sigma Xi, the scientific research honorary (1953).

He took sabbaticals at MIT in 1959; in Zurich, Switzerland in 1967; and in Basel, Switzerland in 1974, 1981, and 1989. He had a longstanding research collaboration with the eminent Swiss chemist Fabian Gerson. During sabbaticals he translated three volumes of Applications of Heilbronner’s Huckel Molecular Model from German to English.

Retirement brought the Martins to Mascoma Lake in Enfield, N.H. where Bill was active in efforts to reduce the invasion of aquatic eurasion milfoil, obtaining two grants to assist in the effort.

He was active in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley serving on the board for 15 years. He enjoyed biking, stamp collecting, and canoeing. Family time involved traveling, camping, hiking, games of Upwords, cards and charades. His passion for the environment led him to be politically active, working to educate elected officials and citizens about the environmental effects of their decisions.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Nancy C. Martin; and his children, Timothy G. Martin of Lynn, Mass., Pamela M. Havener of Goffstown, N.H., and Cynthia Hein of Fort Collins, Colo.

A memorial service is set for Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. in the Dwinnel Room at Harvest Hill, 121 Mascoma St., Lebanon, N.H. An informal memorial is planned for the summer at Mascoma Lake. Donations may be sent to the Mascoma Lake Association, PO Box 9, Enfield, NH 03748 or by contacting mla@mascomalakeassociation.org.

At his request, his body was donated to Dartmouth Medical School.