All of us who knew and loved Dr. Harold Witcoff remember him fondly. He passed away a few days ago in his nineties.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “there are no second acts in America”. Harold proved him wrong. After a long career heading up research at General Mills and serving as director of research at Makhteshim, the largest producer of generic agro-chemicals, he joined our firm, Chem Systems, to head up for a number of years, a very successful program that identified new chemical technologies and assessed their potential for commercialization.
Harold had served as an adjunct professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Minnesota and at other institutions and so, when he was ready for a new challenge, he decided to develope a 3-day course in industrial organic chemistry that he would offer to companies and individuals. This became an immense success when Harold was asked by many domestic and foreign companies to offer this course to their staff. He also organized courses for groups all over the world. His travels to India, the Middle East, South America and elsewhere to teach the course became a legend, with many thousands of grateful students of all ages.
Harold’s ability to make chemistry exciting and understandable were truly a gift. He used props like an interlocked, flexible chain of little plastic rods to demonstrate the formation of polymer chains in the Shell Chemical (SHOP) process and he used the term “superslurpers” for superabsorbent polymers, a product with which he worked at General Mills long before these polymers became indispensable for disposable diapers.
With over 100 patents, many other publications and as co-author of several books, Harold Witcoff will be remembered for a long time.