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Edwin Russell Kennedy Ph.D.

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Edwin Russell Kennedy, Ph.D. 1911-2008 BENNINGTON (Edwin) Russell Kennedy, Ph.D., 96, passed away peacefully on May 9, 2008 at the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, after a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. He was a member of the greatest generation - as defined by Tom Brokaw in his book "The Greatest Generation" as "coming of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and going on to build modern America - men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement, and courage gave us the world we have today. This generation gave us so much and asked for so little." He was born November 4, 1911 in Los Angeles, Calif. to Benjamin Edwin and Bernice Elizabeth Babb Kennedy. As a child genius, he was selected in 1921 to participate in the Terman Study, a longitudinal research study of gifted children to develop standards for the Stanford-Binet (S-B) IQ tests. He obtained his pilot's license at 16 years of age and joined the Air Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Air ROTC.) While in high school he played the saxophone in the marching band, ran cross country track, and was a member of the Chemistry Club. He graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1927, continuing his studies at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif. He worked his way through college by doing gardening and odd jobs for the estate homes surrounding the campus, then later qualifying for full scholarship. He was appointed a Teaching Assistant position in the chemistry department during his graduate school years, which allowed him to continue to conduct his research in the Gates Chemistry Laboratory building. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1932, a master's degree in inorganic chemistry in 1933, and a doctorate degree in chemical engineering and inorganic chemistry in 1936 where his doctoral advisor was Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling. The title of his dissertation, covering three areas of research, was "The decomposition of di-orthotolyliodonium iodide. Joule-Thomson coefficients of some hydrocarbon gases. The hydration of acetylene." He was a member of Sigma Xi Research Society, American Chemical Society, and numerous other professional societies and associations. Russell's ROTC training extended throughout his university career until he joined the Army Air Corps as a lieutenant, where he was a reservist until being called to World War II active duty as a chemical engineer in February 1942. As a major in the Corps on active duty, he was assigned to the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) where his professional responsibilities were to develop alternative fuel sources for the military. His greatest accomplishment during his active duty time was to develop an alcohol-based fuel for the Flying Tigers jeep transports while serving in General Chennault's personal staff in the India-Burma-China campaign. The financial costs to the military were prohibitive for transporting gasoline over the Burma "Hump", the name given by Allied pilots in World War II to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which they flew from India to China to re-supply the Flying Tigers and the Chinese Government of Chiang Kai-shek. For successfully converting motor pool vehicles from gasoline fuel to an ethanol-alcohol-gasoline blend, and thereby saving the government millions of dollars, Russell was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for "exceptionally meritorious service" by General Chennault. The Legion of Merit is one of only two United States decorations to be issued as a neck order (the other being the Medal of Honor), to be worn around the neck. He flew with the Flying Tigers on many missions to conduct his research under battle conditions. He was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, the American Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was discharged from active duty on March 16, 1946 and returned to the Army Air Corps Reserve Unit, which later became the Air Force Reserves, where he rose to the rank of colonel and finished his 35 year military career as the assistant head of the chemistry laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Fla. While at this post he led a team of chemists to develop the first widely used aircraft fuel for jet engines (JP-3). Following graduation from Caltech, Russell was employed by Shell Oil Company in Wilmington, Calif. as a petroleum technologist/engineer until being called to active duty in 1942. When he returned from World War II, his employment with Shell Oil resumed. He went to work in the Richmond, Calif. petroleum refineries specializing in petrochemicals, petroleum products, rocket propulsion fuels, and jet aircraft fuels until being promoted to a lead researcher position in the Research and Development department of Shell Chemical Company in New York City. He worked for Shell companies for 25 years. Following early retirement from Shell, he went to work for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as an engineer of materials research in the research and development department of the engineering division. He was responsible for testing, quality analysis, and development of engineering solutions for many of the Port's major structures. He monitored the air quality in the Holland Tunnel for excesses of carbon monoxide in both the tunnel and the attendants on duty; he developed an anti-corrosive paint for the George Washington Bridge, which reduced the time needed to paint the bridge from 12 months to three months; he developed a railroad car coupler with safety valves; he solved the problem of the imploding windows due to wind pressure at the top of the World Trade Center by creating a gas stability value to discharge between double glass panes; and many other innovations. Before his final retirement he worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for 15 years, headquartered at the World Trade Center. While working at Shell Oil Company in Richmond, Calif., Russell met his future wife, Dorothea Rudolph, daughter of George and Barbara Rudolph of San Francisco, and took her up in an airplane for a ride on their first date. They married on Halloween in San Francisco and later made their home in Mamaroneck, N.Y. After much looking, they finally found a new community in Rye, N.Y. where they had a home custom built. Russell worked with the contractor to design a condensation-recovery system from the forced air conditioning unit, which diverted the recovered water to a pipe in the back yard for watering the grass. He took pride in his home and yard, growing roses every year and regularly trimming the trees. He was very popular with the neighborhood women because he could fix their toasters, hairdryers, irons, and anything else that was broken. He was on the board of trustees of the Rye Methodist Church and performed much of the building maintenance himself. When Dorothea died in 1984, he continued to live in Rye until 1995, when he sold his house and moved permanently to his second home in the village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It was here that he began to need assistance with activities of daily living. He was able to live in his own home for many years with the assistance of several loving caregivers. In 2006 he moved to the Alzheimer's unit of the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington. Russell liked to build things and had an innate curiosity about all things related to science. He started conducting science and chemistry experiments at a very early age in his father's workshop. He built his first crystal radio set at age 6 and went on to build many more radios and electronic components. As a teenager, he blew the back out of his father's workshop when he was experimenting with gun power. He built a color television set from scratch in the 1960s to the amazement of his children, when other families had to go out and buy a ready-made TV set. He built a personal computer from off-the-shelf components in the early 1970s, long before IBM intr
Published in Bennington Banner on May 10, 2008
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