June 21, 1926 – January 6, 2021
Karl Weiss, June 21, 1926 – January 6, 2021
Karl Weiss – a founding member of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), a professor emeritus at Northeastern University and a Holocaust survivor – died on January 6, 2021 at the age of 94. Born in Hamburg, Germany, Karl emigrated to England on the first Kindertransport at the beginning of December 1938. The Kindertransport was organized by a British Quaker group and, with the support of the British government, rescued Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia after Kristallnacht until the beginning of WWII on September 1, 1939.
Karl was placed with a family in London and attended the Mora Road School until all of the schoolchildren in London were evacuated to the countryside in anticipation of the bombing of London. He was extremely fortunate to be placed with Mr. and Mrs. Sharpe in Biddenham, Bedfordshire, where he first attended the local school and later Bedford Technical Institute, also working as a farm laborer in place of being interned on the Isle of Man (where many German and Austrian Jewish refugees were placed). Karl spoke fondly of his time working on the farm and was lovingly cared for by the Sharpes. In 1942, Karl moved to London to perform war work at a chemical research company. While there, he attended the University of London, studying chemistry and volunteering as a firewatcher.
In November of 1946, Karl emigrated to New York City to join his stepmother on the Upper West Side. He began work at Color Research Corporation, and attended Columbia University, earning his bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 1951. He then earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from New York University in 1957, and was appointed assistant professor of chemistry in 1959. In 1961, Karl was appointed assistant professor of chemistry at Northeastern University. He was promoted to associate professor in 1962, and became full professor in 1965. Karl was chairman of the chemistry department from 1969-1979. Under his leadership, the chemistry department constructed a new building, Hurtig Hall. In 1968, Karl was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study quantum chemistry at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. He was named a Fulbright Scholar in 1977 and spent a year at the University of Konstanz in Germany.
Between 1979 and 1991, Karl served as Northeastern University’s vice provost for research and graduate studies, vice president for research, vice president for cooperative education, and vice president for academic development. He continued his research in the field of quantum chemistry until his retirement from Northeastern in 1991. In 1991, Karl was appointed professor emeritus, and in 1993, Karl was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at Northeastern’s commencement.
Karl’s research included pioneering work on the use of lasers in photochemistry and basic studies of the photochemical aspects of vision. He also conducted considerable research in the fields of photochemistry and spectroscopy of complex molecules, molecular complexes and applications of quantum chemistry. He authored or co-authored 82 articles and papers on research topics and education, and spoke about his research findings and various educational themes at 100 conferences around the world.
In 1982, Karl was one of the original founders of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. He served on the board of directors there for 30 years and was elected as chairman of the board several times. The Karl Weiss Education and Conference Center is named for him on the Westborough, MA campus. Karl also had a key role in founding the Integrated Media Systems Center at the University of Southern California in 1997.
In July 1948, Karl married Madeleine Witsenhausen (deceased in 2012), a Holocaust survivor from Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The family moved to Needham, Massachusetts in 1961 before Karl and Madeleine moved to Eastham, Massachusetts in 1999. Karl is survived by his daughter, Carol (m. John Davidson), his son, Alan (m. Lynne Hurewitz), his grandchildren, Elizabeth Davidson (m. Leo Wang), Abigail Davidson (m. Greg Abazorius), Rachel Weiss and Elliot Weiss, and his great-grandchildren, Sophia Wang and Simon Abazorius, as well as many friends and colleagues in the United States and Europe. Karl enjoyed traveling, taking long walks, reading, and listening to classical music. He was famous for his wonderful sense of humor and his outgoing personality. As a lifelong Anglophile, he particularly enjoyed reminiscing about his youth in England and the fact that he shared the same birthdate as Queen Elizabeth II!
A celebration of Karl’s life will be held when it is safe to do so. Contributions can be made in Karl and Madeleine’s memory to a place where Karl and his family spent many happy hours, the Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary (Mass Audubon Society), or to a charity of your choice. To donate to Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary, go to www.massaudubon.org and click on the “DONATE” button. You can select Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary on a drop-down menu.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Bengt and Erika Weisshuhn
January 9, 2021
Words can not express the sorrow we feel. Karl was a truly exceptional friend, and his passing leaves a deep void in our hearts and our life. Karl meant so much to us. His friendship, his world of knowledge and the stories he shared, and his delightful sense of humor has enriched our life. He will never be forgotten.
Our deepest condolences to Karl’s family. Our loving thoughts are with you.
Erika and Bengt Weisshuhn