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Robert Bruno Alexander Naumann dies at 85

Announcements- - By Tien Nguyen, Department of Chemistry
Robert Bruno Alexander Naumann, 1929–2014

Robert Bruno Alexander Naumann, 85, passed away on December 10 of Parkinson’s disease. Born on June 7, 1929 in Dresden, Germany, Naumann was the son of Eberhard Bruno and Elsa (Haege) Naumann zu Koenigsbrueck. He attended the Browning School in New York City, the Cranbrook School, the Scots College in Sydney, Australia, and the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in January 1949, accented with Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi keys, Naumann entered Princeton University’s graduate program in physical chemistry.

In 1953, with a Ph.D. in chemistry, a fresh US naturalization certificate, and a ham-radio license (W2FNY), Naumann chose to remain in Princeton. For 39 years, he was Princeton University’s only joint professor of chemistry and physics. At Princeton he taught hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students, including Albert Einstein. Naumann’s scientific interests, especially in nuclear chemistry/spectroscopy, yielded countless professional articles and the discovery of 21 radioactive isotopes and 12 nuclear isomers.

In the Princeton University chapel in 1961 Robert Naumann married Marina Turkevich, the daughter of Princeton chemistry professor, John Turkevich, and Ludmilla Turkevich, a Russian scholar who would become the first female faculty member to earn tenure at the College of New Jersey. Naumann would leave New Jersey during summer breaks for Los Alamos National Lab. During sabbatical-year leaves, he researched mostly at European universities and institutes in Copenhagen, Geneva, and Munich. Twice, Naumann was named the Alexander von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist and, in 1988, as Visiting Professor of Physics at Munich’s Technical University. He was a member and fellow of many US scientific societies. 

In 1992, Bob retired with Marina to Norwich Vermont. At Dartmouth College Bob found stimulating scholars who honored him as an Adjunct Professor of chemistry, physics, and astronomy. In his precious down time, armed with a scientific “scribble pad” and a pocket radio, Bob continued globetrotting. This creative and energetic pace kept Bob in fine health until midsummer.

Bob is survived by his wife, Marina, daughter, Kristin of Boxford, Massachusetts and son, Andrew with his wife, Liz, of Vashon Island, Washington and four grandchildren.

A Requiem Service and Celebration of Robert Bruno Alexander’s life will be held privately in the spring. Memorial contributions would be welcomed at the VT Foodbank, 33 Parker Road, Barre, Vermont 05641, or at a charity of one’s choice.