Harold Schwarz Named Senior Chemist Emeritus

Photo of Harold Schwarz

Harold Schwarz

Harold Schwarz, who has worked in the Chemistry Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) since 1951, has been named Senior Chemist Emeritus. Since his retirement in 1995, Schwarz has continued to work in Chemistry, collaborating with colleagues on research and helping to maintain and upgrade equipment. As a Senior Chemist Emeritus, Schwarz will regain his BNL badge along with many of the rights, privileges, and obligations of active employees.

Said Chemistry Chair Alex Harris, "Harold Schwarz is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of radiation chemistry, the chemistry of free radicals, and the development and application of pulse radiolysis techniques. He has continued as an active participant in the Chemistry Department's research since his retirement. In particular, he has brought very valuable expertise in the continuing development of advanced instrumentation to the Center for Radiation Chemistry. We are very pleased that the Laboratory is recognizing his active involvement and contributions to BNL by supporting his appointment as Emeritus."

"BNL was a reasonably new lab that had developed a good reputation when I joined nearly 57 years ago," Schwarz recalled. He began his career at BNL by researching radiation effects on water. Water was used to cool and moderate nuclear reactors and Schwarz investigated accidents that could occur when it was irradiated. In his early years, he collaborated with Augustine (A.O.) Allen, a senior chemist in the department. Together, they determined the nature and reactivity of free radicals produced in irradiated water and also discovered conditions under which the generation of hydrogen and oxygen was almost completely suppressed. Schwarz also worked with the Instrumentation Division to design a circuit for the department's Van de Graaff accelerator that would create short pulses of 2 MeV electrons used to produce free radicals and study reactions directly. Due to his expertise on the subject, Schwarz was called in as a consultant during the Three Mile Island reactor crisis in 1979.

In 1968, Schwarz served as a visiting professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. During this one-year sabbatical, he collaborated with a former research associate at the university to develop and use pulse radiolysis equipment with a recently acquired linear accelerator. While in Israel, Schwarz also collaborated with fellow BNL chemist Ralph Weston, who was in California at the time to write a textbook entitled Chemical Kinetics, published in 1972. Chemical kinetics, the study of chemical reaction rates and detailed mechanisms, was changing rapidly at the time the book was published. Schwarz and Weston's textbook was one of the first to take this into account.

In later work at BNL, Schwarz used pulse radiolysis techniques to study many reduction-oxidation (redox) reactions and the thermochemistry of various free radicals. These experiments meshed with the work of other BNL staff members to develop a better understanding of reactions in the utilization of solar energy. Schwarz was also influential in planning for a new accelerator that would become BNL's Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF). His experience with accelerators enabled him to provide critical input and advice during the conceptual and development phases of LEAF.

Since his retirement, Schwarz has continued to play a key role in upgrading pulse radiolysis equipment at the Van de Graaff accelerator. This machine was originally purchased in 1948 and while its pulses are considered slow on a modern timescale, Schwarz said, "Our Van de Graaff is one of the most precise instruments in the world for studying and providing insight into chemical species that have lifetimes from a few microseconds to several seconds."

Schwarz earned a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Omaha in 1948 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 1952. He started at BNL as an associate chemist in 1951 and rose through BNL's ranks retiring as a senior chemist in 1995. Nearly 70 of his works were published between 1954 and 2002.

Throughout his years at BNL, Schwarz has also been active in the outside scientific community, serving on a number of committees including the Radiation Research Society Awards Committee in 1970 and 1971, the Accelerator Committee for the U.S. Army's Natick Laboratories in 1970-1973, the Visiting Committee at Argonne National Laboratory in 1993, and the Visiting Committee at the University of Notre Dame's Radiation Laboratory in 1996. Schwarz also lectured at the Radiation Research Society Meeting in 1970 and has spoken at the University of Wisconsin's Symposium on Chemistry of Unusual Species in 1962, the Gatlinburg Conference in 1963, Berlin's Hahn-Meitner Institute in 1969, and Canada's Chalk River in 1978.

"We always had a lot of freedom in what we did at BNL," Schwarz reflected. "As long as we worked safely, we were free to do a lot of interesting work. Very few people have jobs they look forward to going to-I am one of them."

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