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CHARLES J. KNUTH

KNUTH--Charles Joseph, a chemical engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project, then as a research chemist for Pfizer, Inc., until he became Director of Patents for Pfizer International, died at his home in Manhasset Long Island on January 5. He was 89. The son of a mailman, Dr. Knuth was born in Queens in 1924. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now the Polytechnic Institute of New York University), from which he was drafted after receiving his Bachelor's Degree, returning for his doctorate after World War II. Sent to army specialized training at Ohio State University, he was suddenly, and with some secrecy, transferred to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, then to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to work on purifying enriched fissionable materials for the atomic bomb. While completing his doctoral research, Knuth was supported by a Pfizer fellowship, and upon graduation, he joined their research division in Brooklyn. His many discoveries were patented by Pfizer, and, after he had repeatedly rewritten the draft applications prepared by the patent specialists, he was offered a position in the Legal Division, eventually becoming Director of Patents. Patent work gradually became a job not of writing but of testifying at infringement cases: Knuth took well to the role of expert witness and helped Pfizer to win considerable infringement damages. But the hectic challenges of constant litigation prompted Knuth to take early retirement in 1987, when he took up a new career as a book-discussion leader at the Manhasset Public Library. These annual courses were extremely popular: they went on for eighteen years. Charles took great pains in selecting each year's "syllabus" and was able to enjoy literature, really his first love, in a life that had been dedicated to polymer chemistry and the abstruse byways of patent law. Dr. Knuth was married for 49 years to the former Nancy Addor, who predeceased him in 2001. He is survived by four daughters, Deborah Knuth Klenck of Hamilton, New York; Penelope Knuth of Santiago, Chile; Nancy Thompson of North Bay, Ontario; and Jane Patukas of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and six grandchildren. The funeral was held January 15 at St. Mary's Manhasset. Memorial donations can be directed either to The Polytechnic Institute of New York (Eleanor Fallon, Dir., Donor Relations, 15 Metro Tech Center, Brooklyn NY 11201; www.poly.edu/giving) or The Manhasset Public Library (Debbie Dellis-Quinn, Program Director, 30 Onderdonk Ave, Manhasset, NY 11030; delldeb@aol.com).


Published in The New York Times on Feb. 2, 2014
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