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Arthur Hamilton Livermore ’40

A picture of Arthur Livermore

Arthur Hamilton Livermore ’40 and professor of chemistry [1948–65] October 12, 2009, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Art's fascination with chemistry was sparked at the age of 12, when he received a chemistry set for Christmas, he told Gwen Lewis ’65 in an oral history interview in 2005. Too young to take chemistry in his first year of high school, he resorted to building a laboratory in his basement. “There was a drug supply company in downtown Portland, and I bought all sorts of chemicals there including some chemicals that you'd be in real trouble selling kids today-potassium chlorate and sulfur. You mix them and you have an explosive mixture. I mixed the dry powders and wrapped them in layers of newspaper, and then hit them with a flat head of an axe, and it went boom! Made a tremendous noise.” After earning a BA from Reed in chemistry, Art earned a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Rochester and did postdoctoral work at Cornell Medical School. During the war, he worked on a research team led by Nobel Prize–winning chemist Vincent du Vigneaud that was the first to synthesize penicillin.

At Cornell, Art received a visit from his former adviser, Arthur F. Scott [1923–79], who invited him to return to Reed. Back at the college, Art taught courses in chemistry, biochemistry, and the use of radioactive materials. In 1954, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in molecular and cellular biology. He was also the host of the local TV show Secrets in Science, broadcast on Portland's KGW-TV, intended to popularize science for a young audience. He began a nationwide event designed to teach meteorological concepts to elementary and middle school students, and also worked on the development of the Einstein Fellows program, which introduced outstanding secondary school science and mathematics teachers into the ranks of Congressional staffing.

In 1965, Art resigned from his position as professor of chemistry at Reed and worked full time at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C., where he focused on developing science curricula for elementary classrooms and improving the quality of science teaching at all grade levels. He retired from AAAS in 1981, but continued to work as a consultant with the State of Maryland, Friends of International Education, the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education, and the International School in Washington, D.C., and as a volunteer in public schools. Art's passions included sailing—whetted in his years as a Sea Scout—as well as time spent in the Cascade Mountains and at the Oregon Coast. He played piano, and sang baritone roles in madrigal quartets, in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and in the St. Columba Episcopal Church choir in Washington, D.C. Art married Janet E. Hays ’38 in 1940 and Jane E. Marye in 1965. He had two daughters and four sons, including Arthur H. Livermore ’69.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2010

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