PROFESSOR GEORGE K. FRAENKEL (1921-2009)
The department was saddened to learn of the passing of George Kessler Fraenkel, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, on June 10, 2009.
Professor Fraenkel served as Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1968 until 1983 and as Vice President for Special Projects from 1983 to 1986. He joined the chemistry department in 1949 and became Chair in 1965. He returned to the department in 1986 and remained until his retirement in 1991. Professor Fraenkel was a pioneering physical chemist who helped steer Columbia University through the student unrest of the 1960s and New York City’s financial crisis of the 1970s.
At Columbia, Professor Fraenkel developed unique high sensitivity, high resolution equipment to study electron spin (paramagnetic) resonance (ESR). He was one of the first chemists in this field, which has had important applications in understanding fundamental chemistry and the properties of many biological systems. Professor Ronald Breslow of the Columbia chemistry department, Professor Fraenkel’s colleague for 35 years, recalls that “George Fraenkel was a leader of the exciting young group of physical chemists who brought sophisticated modern theory and elegant experiments together.”
Professor Fraenkel attended Harvard College, receiving his B.A. in 1942, Magna Cum Laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. While he continued as a graduate student at Harvard for a short time, his studies were\ interrupted by his involvement in a scientific research project for the National Defense Research Committee of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. In the fall of 1946 he returned to graduate school at Cornell University, where he received the Ph. D. in 1949.
Dean Fraenkel was President of the Association of Graduate Schools (AGS) of the Association of American Universities in 1980, during the time it issued a definition of the Ph.D. degree. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Xi. Professor Fraenkel was awarded the Harold C. Urey Award of the Gamma Chapter of Phi Lambda Upsilon (1972), and was elected to the Title of Officer dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques (1981). At the time of his death, he also served as Director and Treasurer of the Atran Foundation in New York City.
Professor Fraenkel is survived by his wife, Eva Stolz Gilleran Cantwell, six stepchildren, and one grandchild. In 2010, Eva established the George K. Fraenkel Fund for Research in Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics to support the research of junior faculty in the CU chemistry department.