August Sven Bjornson

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August Sven

Bjornson, Ph.d

Died December 29 at his residence following a six-month illness. He was born Agust (cq) Gudmundar Sveinbjornsson in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1922.

His childhood was spent in Gardur, a fishing village. His father, Sveinbjorn, taught at the local school, much to August's chagrin as his father demanded that he study harder than his classmates, giving him the drive to achieve for the rest of his live.

He lost his mother, Agusta (cq), when he was 13. He studied in Denmark for a while, as Iceland then belonged to that country. Following graduation from junior college in Reykjavik, he planned to study chemistry in Europe, but WWII interfered and the North Atlantic was too dangerous to travel by ship.

He looked west and received a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. When he arrived, he spoke no English and found Wisconsin winters infinitely worse than in Iceland. He quickly learned English and earned his Bachelor's degree in chemistry. He then pursued a Master's in biochemistry at Wisconsin and in that period was part of a team of students of Dr. Paul Link, researching a bleeding disorder that killed cattle. This research eventually led to what is today Coumadin, still saving lives the world over. Thus the young man from Iceland very early on repaid his debt to America with his research.

He briefly returned to Iceland and worked for the government on the feasibility of hydrogenation of herring oil. He quickly decided he needed to pursue his love of research and was offered a student-teacher position at the University of Kansas at Lawrence, while studying for a doctorate in organic chemistry. Upon earning his Ph.D. he was recruited by the E.I. DuPont Company and started his 40-plus years of employment there.

He quickly rose through the ranks, from research supervisor to Corporate Planning to Patents and Licensing Manager. In his various capacities he traveled the world over, from China to India, Korea, Asia-Pacific and untold times to Europe, especially Germany, dealing with all the major chemical research centers and corporations.

Upon retirement from DuPont in 1988, he formed his own research and licensing company and for the next 20 years worked for the University of Delaware, DCV Inc. (a DuPont ConAgra venture), Genis EHF in Iceland, and large chemicals industries in Japan and Korea. He received his last patent at age 80.

In 1995 he was knighted by the President of Iceland for his contributions to research and industry development in his native country. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the Licensing Executive Society, Alpha Chi Sigma Professional Chemistry Fraternity, Sigma Xi and Phi Lambda Upsilon and Honorary Chemical Societies.

August was predeceased by his brothers, Gunnar and Thorvaldur Sveinbjornsson.

He is survived by his wife Helene Bjornson at home, his daughters Kristin Smith and son-in-law James F. Smith in Hockessin and Katharine Diamond in Colorado, his son Karl Bjornson in Ohio, grandchildren Wendy, Jennifer, Erik, Ingrid, Kevan, Katy, Jason, Tristan and Bowen, five great-grandchildren, two half-sisters Edda and Gudrun and nieces and nephews in Iceland and his former wife Arlene Bjornson in Hockessin.

Services will be held on Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 11 a.m. at Concordia Lutheran Church, Silverside Road. Visiting at 10 a.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to Delaware Hospice, Concordia Lutheran Church or animal shelter/rescue groups.

McCrery and Harra Funeral Homes

Published in The News Journal on Jan. 3, 2013
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