WILLIAMSBURG - Professor emeritus W. "Drost" Drost-Hansen, died July 1, 2012, after a lengthy battle against an infection in his artificial hip.
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He was born in Chicago, Ill., Sept. 29, 1925, of Danish parents. He grew up in Denmark (1927 - 1950) where he graduated from Gentofte Statsskole (1944, during the German occupation) and later took the Magister Konference in Chemistry at University of Copenhagen, 1950. During his graduate studies he worked for four years at Niels Bohr's Institute. He married the late Bee Drost-Hansen in 1950 and returned to the United States in the fall of 1950 and held various research positions (in Chicago, later Madison, Wis., and Tucson, Ariz). In 1953, he was appointed associate professor of chemistry at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, N.M.) From 1956 until 1964 he worked in the petroleum industry following which he was appointed associate professor of chemical oceanography at the Marine Institute at University of Miami and in 1966 became full professor. In 1971, he transferred to the chemistry department at UM as professor of chemistry where he stayed until his retirement in 1998 (but continued teaching various graduate and undergraduate courses). In 1983, Prof. Drost had remarried and in 2000 he and his second wife, Martha H. Drost-Hansen (nee Harrington), moved to Williamsburg, Va., where he taught brief courses at the Christopher Wren Association (at the College of William and Mary) for many years.
He leaves behind his two daughters (from his first marriage), Christine E. Drost-Hansen and Cathryn L. Drost-Hansen; and two granddaughters, as well as a son of his second wife, and one granddaughter.
Professor Drost has published well over 100 papers and reports but he will most notably be remembered for his introduction of the concept of "vicinal water" (long-range water structure modifications induced by proximity to solid surfaces and large macromolecules in aqueous solutions) and the concept of Thermal Transition Temperatures. The latter now appear likely to play significant roles in understanding phenomena ranging from critical ecological effects (related to the impact of Global Warming) to Pasteurization temperature (60o C), the selection of body temperatures of birds and mammals and an explanation for the potential clinical treatment of malignant tumors by exposure to temperatures near 44o - 45o C (the upper range of temperatures tolerated by mammals). The concept of 'vicinal water' may also impose critical constraints on the types of extra-terrestrial life that may be possible.
As a scientist and an intellectual Professor Drost was a deeply devout, 'orthodox,' apostolic Atheist, and in his later years became seriously engaged in religious writings, particularly advocating his motto: "Be rational - NOT religious." Beside his dedication to science and secular humanism, he was also interested in European history, antiques and art. Professor Drost has been cremated and his ashes will be spread in Denmark.
A celebration of life for both Dr. Drost-Hansen and his beloved wife, Martha Drost-Hansen will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hospice House of Williamsburg, 4445 Powhatan Parkway, Williamsburg, VA 23188. Online condolences may be offered at www.nelsencares.com. View and post condolences on our online guestbook at dailypress.com/guestbooks.
Published in Daily Press from July 7 to July 8, 2012