Obituary of Howard Benedict Palmer
Howard Benedict Palmer died January 19, 2017.
Howard Benedict Palmer was born in Indianapolis on July 10, 1925, to Claude E. Palmer and Katharine (Benedict) Palmer. The family soon moved to Muncie, where Claude founded what became the School of Music at Ball State University.
In 1942 Howard enrolled in Carnegie Institute of Technology on a Brashear Scholarship. He graduated in chemistry in 1948 with various honors, having spent the years 1944-46 as an electronics technician in the Navy. This was followed by a move to the University of Wisconsin to major in physical chemistry, where he did research at the Naval Research Laboratory under Prof. J. 0. Hirschfelder. He completed the PhD in 1952. During this period he met and married Katherine Watson, a French and English major. They became parents of three sons, two (Andrew and Jeffrey) born in Providence, where Howard did three years teaching and research at Brown, and one (David) in State College, where Howard joined the Penn State faculty in 1955 as assistant professor of fuel technology. He became associate professor in 1957 and professor in 1960. In 1959 Dr. Palmer was named head of the Department of Fuel Technology, continuing in that post until 1965. He became professor of fuel science in 1966, served as chairman of the Fuel Science Section of the Department of Material Sciences from 1969 to 1976, and was named professor of energy science and senior associate dean of the Graduate School early in 1977. He retired in 1991 as professor emeritus of energy science and as Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School. In 1963, on leave from the University, Dr. Palmer spent six months as a visiting scientist in the kinetics and spectroscopy laboratory of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemical Technology of Imperial College, London. A second leave in 1971 was spent as visiting professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Palmer's teaching and research included flames and combustion processes; kinetics of fast gaseous reactions, carbon formation and carbon vaporization; mechanisms, emission spectra, and photon yields in chemiluminescent gaseous reactions; PVT behavior of fluids; and solar gas turbines for power production. He directed research of thirty-five graduate students and postdoctoral scholars and published about 120 papers or book chapters on his research. He also edited and coauthored a volume on modern developments in combustion technology, and served from 1972 to 1984 as U.S. Editor of Combustion and Flame, the international journal of the Combustion Institute, guiding it through 40 volumes containing some 15,000 pages. In 1988 the Institute awarded him the Egerton Gold Medal for his service to Combustion Science.
Dr. Palmer served as consultant or advisor to a number of industrial and governmental organizations, including Brookhaven National Laboratory, United Technologies Research Center, Exxon Laboratories, the Orbiting Space Laboratory Program of NASA, the University Space Research Association, and Sandia-Livermore National Laboratory. He served frequently as a public-service consultant to federal agencies and a referee for journals and proposals.
He is a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Fuel, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society, and a member of several other professional or honorary societies. He was particularly active in the Combustion Institute, serving not only as editor of its journal but also as a member of various International Symposia on Combustion. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Combustion Institute as its vice-president (1984-85) and as president (1985-88).
In the Graduate School, Dr. Palmer was responsible for academic policies and procedures, for monitoring academic performance of graduate students and quality of graduate offerings, for administration of intercollege graduate degree programs, and for the operation of the Graduate Council. He also served as the Penn State representative to various associations of graduate deans.
Howard began playing the piano in early childhood and has been a devoted classical musician ever since, playing both solo works and, especially, chamber compositions such as sonatas with various other instruments, trios, and some larger works. At age 33, he decided that learning a string instrument was essential to his full enjoyment of chamber music. Patient friends enabled him to participate as a violist. For many years he went every summer to the Vermont Music and Arts Center (VMAC) to play all types of chamber works, and occasionally larger compositions, such as Bach's Brandenburg concerti. Musical friends made there and in State College became a large part of his life.
In 2009 Howard was predeceased by Kathy, his wife of fifty-eight years, and by their son Andrew, in 2010. He is survived by one sister, Marian; by his son Jeffrey (wife Carol) and grandsons Justin, Christopher (wife Roxana and great grandson Vincent), and Jackson; and by his son David (wife Sara) and grandson Steven. In December 2010 he was united in a commitment ceremony at Foxdale, with Charlotte de Lissovoy, who survives at home. Contributions in memory of Howard may be made to The Foxdale Training and Tuition Support Fund (Foxdale Village, 500 E. Marylyn Avenue, State College); the Kathy Palmer Outreach Fund at St Andrew's Episcopal Church, State College; the University Baptist and Brethren Church, State College; and the Howard B. Palmer Faculty Mentoring Fund at The Pennsylvania State University.
A memorial service will be held at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 208 West Foster Avenue, State College, at 10:30am on Monday, January 30, 2017.
Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com.
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