A Milestone Birthday

Professor Emeritus Herbert Morawetz Turns 100

People with Professor Emeritus Herbert Morawetz on his birthday

Herbert Morawetz is so revered by his former students that each year they sponsor a lecture in his honor. This year, they arranged for Princeton University’s B. Rosemary Grant and Peter R. Grant to speak on the topic of Darwin’s finches, which inhabit a miniscule Galápagos island called Daphne Major. The finches display a wide variety of beak shapes and sizes, and the Grants have devoted much of their careers as evolutionary biologists to discovering why.

The lecture was special not only because of its fascinating topic, however, but because it marked the occasion of Morawetz’s centennial birthday. While he could not attend the event, members of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering took the opportunity to raise a glass in his honor.

Morawetz has unquestionably forged a life and career well worth toasting.

Born on October 16, 1915, in Prague, he moved to the U.S. in 1945 and accepted a post as a research chemist for the Bakelite Company, makers of the world’s first synthetic plastic, whose invention marked the start of the Polymer Age. 

In 1950 he earned his doctoral degree at what was then known as the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, joined the faculty the following year, and achieved the status of emeritus in 1986. He inspired countless students during his time here and, along with Herman Mark, he helped make the school a world-class center of polymer research.

A tribute published by the American Chemical Society referred to Morawetz’s love of knowledge, truth and insight—a characteristic well-known to anyone lucky enough to work or study with him. The entire NYU Tandon School of Engineering community joins in sending him best wishes and commits to following his example of scientific rigor and insatiable intellectual curiosity.