Kenneth Temple, emeritus professor of microbiology at Montana State University, died of pneumonia at age 95 on Sept. 30, 2013, at home in Bozeman.
Ken Temple was born in St. Paul, Minn. on March 22, 1918, the third child of Sterling Temple and Isabella Matchett Temple. At an early age his family moved to New York state where Ken grew up, first on Staten Island in New York City and then in Niagara Falls. He developed his lifelong love of reading, gardening, nature, and the outdoors early on, and adopted his younger sister's accordion after she lost interest. He was raised in the Methodist church. His collegiate undergraduate years were spent at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Ken developed many outdoor interests including downhill and cross-country skiing, camping, hiking in the Adirondacks, horseback jumping, and working as a camp counselor. In those days ski lifts were rare enough, so he said, that skiers generally had to work their way up the slopes by sidestep or herringbone to reach the top. Ken had an old pair of hickory skis dating from that time that he kept for many years.
Ken majored in chemistry, as had his father and an older brother before him, earning his degree in 1940. He then received an M.S. in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin
in Madison. It was in Madison that he learned to square dance.
With the imminent entry of the United States into World War II, Ken became an employee of the U.S. Navy
, working at Naval Research in Washington, D.C. In Washington, at a square dance, he met his lifelong love and partner, Ruth Remsberg. They were married Sept. 4, 1943. Their marriage continued for 55 years until Ruth's death in 1998.
After the war Ken switched fields and earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from Rutgers University. After receiving his degree, Ken became a post-doctoral researcher at West Virginia University. There he did groundbreaking work on sulfuric acid runoff from coal mines. Prior to this, no one had identified microbial action as the source of that pollution. Ken discovered and named the organism responsible, thiobacillus ferrooxidans.
After five years, Ken relocated to Houston, Texas to work for Texaco. Two years later, in 1955, he moved to Montana to join the Department of Botany and Bacteriology in what was then Montana State College. The Bozeman area suited him perfectly, offering as it did both interesting research opportunities in microbiology, as well as a wealth of opportunities for hiking in the mountains, summer and winter camping, skiing, hunting and fishing, and canoeing.
While at Montana State, research on microorganisms in Yellowstone geothermal waters became one of Ken's main professional interests. He was the first person to identify what are now called extremophiles, in this case thermophile organisms living in water previously thought to be too hot to support life. The study of extremophiles has become a major scientific enterprise since that time.
Ken lived in Bozeman for the rest of his life, except for a two-year research sabbatical in Australia, another year-long sabbatical in England, and two years late in life in a retirement community near his daughter Susan in the Seattle area.
Ken enjoyed a wide range of activities. His love of square dancing and playing the accordion continued all his life. He loved dogs and was very interested in all wildlife, whether that meant watching a nearby mountain lion, building bluebird houses, or videotaping wildflowers. Ken joined colleagues in winter ski-camping across parts of northern Yellowstone, hiking up Blackmore and in the Spanish Peaks, and climbing Granite Peak. He was also very family-oriented and enjoyed joining his children in recreational activities such as skiing, hiking, chess, and word games like Scrabble and Jotto. Ken and Ruth delivered Meals on Wheels together for decades. Especially after his retirement from MSU, Ken enjoyed playing and eventually teaching bridge (although he was never as good at it as Ruth). He read widely in literature, science, religion, and other areas. Science fiction was among his favorites. He had a good understanding of language, and would grimace if someone used a word incorrectly. Ken and Ruth enjoyed taking the family on long road trip vacations, including visiting relatives on the east coast, exploring national parks, and on one occasion venturing into southern Mexico.
Kenneth was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers, Ralph and Willard, and his wife, Ruth. He is survived by his three children, George of St. Paul, Minn., Judson of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Susan of Bellevue, Wash.; five granddaughters, Anya Temple, Sarah Temple, Kate O'Donnell, Kirsten Temple, and Julie Whitten, two great-grandsons, Connor and Alexander Whitten; and by his sister, Winifred Schumacher of PA.
A memorial service will be held at the Bozeman United Methodist Church on Friday, Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. Transportation will be provided from Aspen Pointe. Donations may be made in Ken's honor to the Wilderness Society, 503 W. Mendenhall, Bozeman, MT 59715, or to the Bozeman United Methodist Church, 121 S. Willson, Bozeman, MT 59715. Condolences may be mailed to PO Box 1311, Bozeman, MT 59771.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, www.dokkennelson.com.