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Professor Harry Wasserman

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Professor  Harry Wasserman Obituary
WASSERMAN, PROF. HARRY H. Professor Harry Wasserman, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Yale University, died at 93 in Lexington, Massachusetts on Dec. 29, 2013. At age 16, Harry was awarded a scholarship from M.I.T., where he earned a B.S. in chemistry. He then began graduate studies at Harvard under the mentorship of the organic chemist R. B. Woodward, a future Nobel laureate. In 1943, Wasserman interrupted his studies to serve in the 503rd Army Air Force in Africa and the Middle East. Rising to the rank of captain, he trained soldiers to detect and protect themselves against chemical gas attacks. Returning to Harvard after the war, Wasserman met Elga Steinherz, a fellow chemist whom he married in 1947. He obtained his Ph.D. and joined the Yale faculty in 1948. There, he and his research group developed innovative methods for synthesizing antibiotics and other complex compounds from nature. His discoveries and accomplishment garnered widespread respect, leading to his election to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Wasserman taught organic chemistry at Yale for more than four decades, making an often-dreaded course clear and enjoyable. His achievements in education were recognized with Yale’s Devane Medal for excellence in teaching, a Yale College prize for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching, and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. Having studied painting with John Wilson, Professor Wasserman became well known for his watercolor drawings of cityscapes and natural environments. Yale embraced his paintings of campus architecture, featuring them for 15 years as the cover illustration for its summer course catalog. Yale was also the focus of Harry’s musical career. A self-taught clarinetist, he played with a number of jazz combos, including a quartet of chemists performing as “The Gloom Exterminators.” Professor Wasserman is survived by his wife Elga, his children Daniel, Diana, and Steven; seven grandchildren; one great-granddaughter, and his brother, Herbert.
Published in The New Haven Register on Feb. 16, 2014
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