internationally known chemist, professor and mentor to many dies at 89
George Bernard Kauffman, who was a Professor of Chemistry at California State University, Fresno (CSUF) from 1956 until his retirement in 1992, died in his home in Fresno on May 2, 2020. Dr. Kauffman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 4, 1930 to Philip Jack Kauffman and Laura Fisher.
Kauffman was a Science Talent Search winner in 1948,and received his B.A. with honors in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania (1951) and his Ph.D. from the University of Florida (1956). He was a Research Participant at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (1955), an Instructor in Chemistry at the University of Texas (1955–1956), and a Research Chemist for the Humble Oil and Refining Company (1955) and the General Electric Company (1957, 1959). Long active in both local and national American Chemical Society (ACS) affairs, he was chairman (1969–1970), symposium chairman (1966, 1968, 1970), and program chairman (1967–1969) of the ACS Division of the History of Chemistry. He was editor of the History of Chemistry Series, ACS Audio courses (1975–1981). He presented more than a hundred lectures at local, national, and international meetings and symposia.
Dr. Kauffman was the author of 17 books and more than 3,000 papers, reviews, and encyclopedia articles on chemical education, chemistry, and the history of science, a number of which have been translated into foreign languages. In 1969 the USSR Academy of Sciences invited him to contribute two articles on relations between Mendeleev and American chemists to a volume celebrating the centenary of the periodic system. In 1971 he was invited to present a paper and preside at the 13th International Congress on the History of Science in Moscow. On both occasions he was the only Western scientist to be so honored. In 1972 he was named Director of the CSUF National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Participation Program. In that same year he was named a Guggenheim fellow in the field of History of Science and Technology. In 1973 he was one of two faculty members chosen from among 16,000 in the 19-campus California State University System to be named Outstanding Professor in recognition of his "creative teaching and scholarly endeavor."
Kauffman was a Contributing Editor of the Journal of College Science Teaching, The
Hexagon, Journal of Chemical Education, Today's Chemist, The Chemical Intelligencer, Today's
Chemist at Work, Chemical Heritage, The Chemical Educator, Chem 13 News, Industrial Chemist
and the CSUF Navigator. In 1976 he was one of four national winners of the Manufacturing
Chemists’ Association Catalyst Award for Excellence in College Chemistry Teaching. He was
awarded all three of the N.S. Kurnakov Institute of General & Inorganic Chemistry, USSR
Academy of Sciences medals—the Chugaev (1976), Kurnakov (1990), and Chernyaev Medals
(1991). He was a member of the editorial board of Polyhedron and editor of this journal's
quarterly feature “Historical Sketches” (1982–1985).
Kauffman made a chemical-historical study of Werner's coordination theory under a National
Science Foundation grant at the Universität Zürich (1963–1964). He spent 1983 in Europe under
grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Svenska Institutet (the Swedish
Institute) gathering material for his research project, “A Humanist Genius as Amateur Scientist:
August Strindberg's Chemical and Alchemical Studies and Their Influence on His Literary and
Dramatic Productions.” He received the Exceptional Merit Service Award (1984) and the
Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Award of the California State University
System (1986 and 1988). He was awarded the Marc-Auguste Pictet Medal of the Société de
Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle de Genève (1992) and the George C. Pimentel Award in
Chemical Education (1993).
In 1994 Kauffman became the first recipient of the President's Medal of Distinction, "the
highest non-degree presented by CSUF to citizens of the region, state or nation whose
contribution in the area of professional achievements or public service are of national or
international significance, or represent a contribution of great significance to the university." He
presented the introductory plenary lecture at the 17th Conference on Coordination Chemistry
("Coordination Chemistry at the Turn of the Century"), Smolenice Castle, Slovakia, June 7-11,
1999 and an invited paper at the Third International Conference on the History of Chemistry and
Chemical Industry, Budapest, Hungary, July 2–4, 1999. In 2000 he received the ACS Award for
Research at an Undergraduate Institution. On the occasion of his 70th birthday the Institute for
the History of Science & Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences, honored him with a
laudatory decree for his contributions to chemistry and the history of chemistry. In 2002 he was
elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), received
the American Chemical Society’s Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, and was honored by
the ACS for his 50 years of service. His invited article, “Coordination Chemistry at the Turn of the
Century,” appeared in a special issue of the Journal of the Indian Chemical Society (June 2003).
Kauffman is the author or editor of such important books as Alfred Werner—Founder of
Coordination Chemistry (1966), Werner Centennial (Advances in Chemistry Series Number 62,
1967); Classics in Coordination Chemistry I. The Selected Papers of Alfred Werner (1968), II.
Selected Papers 1798–1899 (1976), III. Twentieth Century Papers 1904–1935 (1978); Teaching
in the History of Chemistry (1971); and Coordination Chemistry: A Century of Progress (ACS
Symposium Series Number 565, 1994). In 1978 George Kauffman received the Dexter Award for extensive contributions including published papers and books, organization of symposia, and particularly for his studies on Alfred Werner and the history of coordination compounds.
Over the years Kauffman was a frequent contributor to The Fresno Bee and Community Alliance Newspaper, not only on topics related to science but also with reflections about experiences in his own life. In addition to his significant accomplishments in the field of chemistry he was a music enthusiast, and also had a strong interest in the interactions of science, humans and the environment. He had a unique sense of humor and displayed passionate engagement and diligence throughout his life. He is survived by his wife of 50 years Laurie Kauffman, his children Ruth (Marty) Bryskier, Judith (Mario) Reposo, Bob (Peggy) Papazian, Teresa Papazian, Mary Papazian, 8 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
Donations in his memory to The Union of Concerned Scientists are welcome and appreciated. https://www.ucsusa.org/
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.lislefuneralhome.com for the KAUFFMAN family.