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Fred W. Billmeyer Jr.

(August 24, 1919 – December 12, 2004)



Fred Wallace Billmeyer, Jr., world renowned educator and researcher in the fields of color science and polymer science, died December 12, 2004, at a nursing home in Clifton Park, New York. Fred was born on August 24, 1919 in Chattanooga, TN. In 1941, he received a B. Sc. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He completed his Ph.D. in 1945 at Cornell University, under the direction of Nobel Laureate, Peter Debye, where he studied light scattering in synthetic rubbers.

From 1945 to 1964, he was associated with the Plastics Department of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Wilmington, Delaware. While at du Pont, his work in plastics would lead Fred to investigate innovative ways to apply color to synthetic materials.  During that time, he began his career as a university educator and from 1951 to 1964 he was Lecturer in High Polymers in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Delaware, and from 1960-1961 served as a Visiting Professor in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   

From 1964 to 1984, Dr. Billmeyer held the position of Professor of Analytical Chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y., where he taught and directed research in both polymer science and color science and directed the Rensselaer Color Measurement Laboratory.  He retired from Rensselaer in 1984 after which he held the title of Professor Emeritus.  

In 1966, Fred and his colleague, Max Saltzman published the first edition of Billmeyer and Saltzman’s Principles of Color Technology.   Through a follow-on edition in 1981 and an expanded collaborative edition with Roy Berns in 2000, it remains a seminal text used by color professionals around the world.  In addition, he was the author of over 280 papers in the fields of polymer chemistry and color science, and of the books, Textbook of Polymer Chemistry, Textbook of Polymer Science, (three editions), Synthetic Polymers, Experiments in Polymer Science (with E.A. Collins and J. Bares), Entering Industry, a Guide for Young Professional (with R.N. Kelly) and the AIC Annotated Bibliography on Color Order Systems.  He also served as a Section Editor for Chemical Abstracts and in 1976, established the journal, Color Research and Application, serving as its Editor-in-Chief for ten years.  

Fred was an active member of the Inter-Society Color Council (ISCC) and served as a Director, Vice President, President, and from 1970-1982 as Council Secretary.  He received the ISCC’s Macbeth Award in 1978, the Nickerson Service Award in 1983, and the Godlove Award in 1993.  He was named an Honorary Member of the Council in 1987.   Fred was also an active member of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).  He worked extensively with numerous color committees and contributed more than a dozen important and widely used consensus standards.  He was a recipient of the organization’s coveted Award of Merit in 1990 and the Frank W. Rheinhart Award for outstanding contribution to terminology standardization in 1998.  Fred also served as a Trustee to the Munsell Color Foundation, was a Life Member of the U. S. National Committee of the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) and active with the International Color Association (AIC).  In 1999, Fred received the Deane B. Judd Award from the AIC recognizing his lifetime of significant contributions to the field of color.

Professor Billmeyer was also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Xi honor societies; a member of the Council for Optical Radiation Measurements (CORM) in which he served as both a Director and as Secretary-Treasurer, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA), a member of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) of which he was a former Director, a member of the New York Society for Coatings Technology and the Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology (FSCT), and was recognized in 1992 as a 50 year lifetime member of the American Chemical Society (ACS). He was an Honorary Member of the Colour Group (Bulgaria) and a former member of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), the Colour Group (Great Britain), and the Society of Dyers and Colourists (Great Britain).

Fred also received the following honors from professional societies: the Roon Award (1962) for best publication in the Paint Journal; the Mattiello Memorial Lectureship (1968), and the Armin J. Bruning Award (1977) all from the FSCT; the Committee on Terminology Award of the ASTM Standing Committee, and recognition of work on ANSI Committee Z535 on Safety Signs and Colors.   In the year 2000, he was presented with the first ASTM Committee E-12 on Color and Appearance Award of Appreciation, fittingly named the Fred W. Billmeyer, Jr. Award.

Professor Billmeyer is survived by his wife, Annette, (Trzcinski), formerly of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and the following children: a daughter, (Elli) Eleanor Ann Puffe of Austin, Texas; a son, Dean W. Billmeyer of Minneapolis, Minn. and a son, David M. Billmeyer of Schenectady; and from a previous marriage, a son, Fred S. Billmeyer of Colorado; four grandsons, Alex, Dan and Tim Puffe of Austin, Texas and Stanley Billmeyer of Schenectady.  Interment of Fred's cremains will be in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tenn.