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Robert Maurice Fristrom ’43

A picture of Robert Fristrom

Robert Maurice Fristrom ’43, November 14, 2014, in Rockville, Maryland. Bob transferred to Reed from Albany College (Lewis & Clark College) and earned a BA in chemistry, working with Prof. Fred Ayres [chemistry 1940–70] to write the thesis “An Investigation of Phase Equilibria in the Ternary System: Ethanolamine-Water-Potassium Carbonate.” Reflecting on his years at the college, Bob wrote later: “My experience at Reed provided me with a broad, well grounded education and the confidence that I could hold my own in science or any other intellectual field. These are the tools one would hope to get from an education. The remaining requirements for success in science are a willingness to work, imagination, and some ability to get along with people.” He earned an MA with honors from the University of Oregon and served two years in the navy during World War II. After the war, he earned a PhD in physical chemistry from Stanford University, did a postdoctoral research fellowship at Harvard, and joined the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, where he met his future wife, Geraldine (Gerrie). Bob worked as a scientist at the laboratory for 44 years, pursuing research in combustion, propulsion, microwave spectroscopy, molecular beams, and chemical kinetics. He published three books and more than 100 research papers. He also won the Hildebrand Award for brilliant experimental investigations and interpretations of high temperature processes in the chemistry and physics of flames, the Combustion Institute Silver Medal, and the Alexander von Humboldt prize from Germany’s Humboldt Foundation. Bob lectured around the world and was a visiting professor at universities in the U.S. and in Germany. Retirement in 1995 gave Bob and Gerrie the opportunity to travel and to split their time at homes in Maryland and Florida. Gerrie died in 2007. Their son, Rob, and his family became the primary support for Bob thereafter. Survivors include Rob, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. “Bob gave friendship, wisdom, and happiness to all that knew him. He was loved by many and will be missed by all.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2015

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