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Hobart H. Willard (1881-1974)

On May 7, 1974, Professor Hobart H. Willard died in Ann Arbor, Michigan after an illustrious career in chemistry, largely at the University of Michigan Chemistry Department, during the course of which he contributed so greatly to the development of analytical chemistry as a scientific discipline. 

As measures of Professor Willard’s influence on analytical chemistry as a teacher and as an investigator, mention need only be made of the Willard-Winter method for the isolation and determination of fluoride, the Willard-Greathouse methods for the photometric determination of manganese, the appearance in 1974 of the fifth edition of his textbook on physical methods of analysis, and the contributions of his students and of their students to analysis. His contributions to analytical chemistry were many and varied, often being among the pioneering efforts in the areas concerned. It is interesting to note in the period between 1920 and 1928 three women received degrees with Willard, and that their collaborative research with him ultimately resulted in thirty-four publications. 

Of major importance was his work on the preparation and utilization of perchloric acid and perchlorates, which his student G. Frederick Smith, has done so much to publicize and make available to analytical chemists. With N. Howell of Princeton, he initiated the use of cerate oxidimetry. With M. Guy Mellon of Purdue, he introduced 1,10-phenanthroline as a photometric reagent for iron. He pioneered in and contributed greatly to the area of kinetically controlled precipitation (in homogeneous solution). He was one of the pioneers in the use of organic reagents for the determination of inorganic ions, introducing the use of phenylthiohydantoic acid and of tetraphenylarsonium chloride and its phosphorus and antimony analogs. Other areas to which he contributed in an influential manner included atomic weights for lithium, silver and antimony, bimetallic electrode pairs, periodate chemistry, important methods for early alloying elements in steels such as chromium, vanadium, tungsten and zirconium, etc. 

Professor Willard was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on June 3, 1881, but spent his boyhood in Michigan. In 1899, he came to the University of Michigan with which he remained connected for the remainder of his life and upon which he had such a great impact as a teacher and investigator, receiving in 1946 the Henry Russell Lectureship which is the highest distinction given by the University to a member of its faculty. Receiving his BA degree in 1903, he began to teach at Michigan but interrupted his stay for several years to go to Harvard in order to work with Theodore W. Richards on problems in atomic weight determination.  On receiving his PhD degree in 1909, he returned to Michigan. Professor Willard’s doctoral research involved perchlorates, which had, as indicated, a strong Impact on his early research studies. 

In 1951, he reached the mandatory retirement at the age of 70 at Michigan and became Professor Emeritus.  However, for the next decade, he taught for one or more semesters at each of a number of other universities and continued his consulting activities, often spending extended periods of time at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos Laboratories of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. 

Professor Willard’s scientific contributions include one hundred and thirty research papers, three textbooks on analytical chemistry which have had major impact of the nature of analytical chemistry texts, a number of book chapters, a monograph on precipitation in homogeneous solution, and last, but certainly by no means least, a major impact on students of analytical chemistry for over half of the 20th century. Indeed, many of Professor Willard’s former graduate students and collaborators contributed greatly to the development of analytical chemistry in the 20th century: G. Frederick Smith, R.D. Fowler, Ross Moshier, Harvey Diehl, Lynne L. Merritt, Taft Y. Toribara, Carl W. Zuehlke, Amo Heyn, Harry Freund, Louis Gordon, Richard Hahn, A.L. Wooden, John A. Dean and Charles A. Horton. 

Professor Willard’s accomplishments were recognized by many groups associated with analytical chemistry. A detailed biography and analysis of his research investigations was published by Harvey Diehl (Talanta, 7, 153 (1961); a list of Professor Willard’s publications is given on pages 316-22 of the same issue of that journal. A good summary of Professor Willard’s view of analytical chemistry, as well as of the development of analytical chemistry, is given in his Fisher Award address (Anal. Chem., 23, 1726 (1 951)).

Willard Lectures

1976 Harry M.N.H. Irving, University of Leeds
1978 Velmer A. Fassel, Iowa State University
1980 Lockhart B. Rogers, University of Georgia
1982 Philip J. Elving, University of Michigan
1984 Allen J. Bard, The University of Texas-Austin
1986 George H. Morrison, Cornell University
1988 Gary M. Hieftje, Indiana University
1990 Leroy E. Hood, California Institute of Technology
1992 R. Graham Cooks, Purdue University
1994 James W. Jorgenson, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
1996 Timothy D. Harris, Bell Laboratories
1998 Csaba G. Horváth, Yale University
2000 Michael D. Morris, University of Michigan
2002 Robert T. Kennedy, University of Michigan
2004 David R. Walt, Tufts University
2006 Andreas Manz, Institute for Analytical Sciences