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Hobart H. Willard
LSA Minutes

18 81 - 1974

Dr. Hobart Hurd Willard, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, died in Ann Arbor on May 7, 1974. He was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on June 3, 1881 but grew up in Union City, Michigan, where his family had moved in 1883. He graduated from Union City High School in 1889. While in the eighth grade he found an old chemistry book in the attic of his home and set up a laboratory in a vacant room. His father, recognizing the boy's sincere interest in the subject, let him purchase glassware and several more modern books on trips to Chicago. By the time Hobart was in high school, his chemistry teacher encouraged him even more and obtained the complete set of 40 dry unknowns prepared for the students taking qualitative analysis at The University of Michigan. Using his own equipment, Hobart analyzed these and wrote correct reports for 39 of them.

In 1889, when he entered the University, he was given full credit for the 10-hour chemistry qualitative analysis course and was also given credit for general chemistry. A physical chemistry course was his first required elective course. In his usual thorough way of doing things, however, he visited all the classroom sessions in the qualitative course.

Hobart Willard acquired his A.B. degree in 1903 and an M.A. degree in 1905 and in 1904 was appointed an acting instructor in the Chemistry Department. His first research paper appeared shortly thereafter in collaboration with H. S. Carhart and W. D. Henderson. In 1905, he became interested in the determination of atomic weights of the elements and on the advice of another young member of the staff, Moses Gomberg, he went to Harvard to work under the direction of T. W. Richards. Harvard awarded him the doctoral degree in 1909 and he retured to Ann Arbor.

Dr. Willard taught here at the University for the next 42 years. At his retirement, one of his former students wrote that he was "the most lucid and practical teacher I have ever known." He claimed that he enjoyed teaching but that he always had a keen interest in research. His records of his research work were complete and detailed. This was in line with his habit of keeping a day-to-day diary during his lifetime and, at least during his college days, a careful record of cash transactions. He was an avid enthusiast of photography and in his 1898 "order book" it shows the receipts of 5c, 15c and 60c for pictures that he had sold and a 15c expenditure for a soda, He allowed himself $3 a month spending money.

Forty-three students earned their doctoral degrees under his direction and he published 130 research papers. His researches covered wide fields and much of his work earned him an international reputation. His work on perchlorates, periodates, oxidizing agents, electrometric procedures, colorimetric indicators, polarographic methods, precipitation from homogeneous solutions and methods for the quantitative determination of many different elements kept him busy until early morning hours. The textbooks that were published during his teaching career by Willard and collaborators (mostly his former students) were exceptionally well received.

Dr. Willard served as Director of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Laboratories of the Bureau of Aircraft Production in Detroit during 1917 and 1918 and served as consultant for the Parker Rust Proof Company for most of his active career. One point of interest in this connection was the combining of his honeymoon with his bride, Margaret Sheppard, with a necessary and unexpected trip to Europe to obtain a German patent for a process he had developed for rustproofing.

Dr. Willard delivered the Henry Russel lecture in 1948, received the Fisher Award in Analytical. Chemistry at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in 1951, and the first of the annual Anachem Awards given by the Association of Analytical Chemists of the Detroit Section of the American Chemical Society in 1953. He was an active member of the American Chemical Society and one of its Directors from 1934-1940, of the Electrochemical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a 50-year holder of a Sigma Xi key and was honored by the Chemical Honorary Society, Phi Lambda Upsilon, by being made a life member after 40 years of active membership.

During the first 10 years of his retirement from The University of Michigan in 1951, Dr. Willard taught two summers at the University of New Mexico; two academic years at the University of Southern Illinois, one year at Washington State College, and two years at Valparaiso University. He worked as a research consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Rocky Flats. New books have been published and are still coming out from the press.

At his retirement, a letter which was signed by several persons was given him which contained the statement: "When we think of honor, loyalty, sincerity, integrity, ability, intelligence, kindness, generosity, perseverance, and good sportsmanship, we think of "Hobe" Willard with pride and affection." His life was truly an inspiration to all who knew him.

He is survived by his widow, Margaret Sheppard Willard, two daughters, 1 Ann Willard Korfhage of Dallas, Texas and Nancy Willard Lindbloom of Poughkeepsie, New York, five grandchildren, and a brother, Raymond Willard, of Altadena, California.

Leigh C. Anderson Hobart Hurd Willard Memorial Mailing List