Obituary - David H. Templeton (1920 - 2010)

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David H. Templeton (1920 - 2010)


David died at the age of 90 at his house in El Cerrito near Berkeley, California. Just the evening before, he had a nice dinner with his son Alan who visited him and certainly did not expect his father to leave us so soon (although he tired easily). He survived his wife Lieselotte (Lilo), who died at the age of 91, by seven months.

I met David for the first time in 1972, in his office at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, on the hill dominating the UC Berkeley campus. I arrived from Switzerland, shortly after obtaining my PhD from the ETH in Zurich, for a postdoctoral stay in David’s laboratory. I immediately felt at ease around him with his soft way of speaking, his gentleman’s manners, and his ability to make you laugh with some funny stories. I was also happy to meet the senior members of his laboratory, Allan Zalkin, Helena Ruben and Lilo, who was also part of the research team. I greatly benefited from their help and advice.

David received his Bachelor of Science summa cum laude in 1941 from the Louisiana Polytechnic Institute. While work- ing on his Master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Texas, David was drafted in 1943 and served in the Army Corps of Engineers. He was however soon reassigned to the Manhattan Project in Chicago where he met Glenn Seaborg, William Zachariasen and other leading scientists. It is certainly there that David got his first insight into crystallography and x-ray diffraction. I remember when David was discussing his Chicago period how impressed he was by the ability of Zachariasen, the author of the famous book, The Theory of X-ray Diffraction in Crystals, to identify compounds from a simple inspection of their powder diffraction patterns. Apparently the pre-computer scientists of that time did possess abilities that are missing today!

While in Chicago, Glenn Seaborg convinced David to come to Berkeley for his PhD once he had finished his Master’s studies at Texas. David was apparently very successful in his research and completed his PhD in Chemistry in 1947 after just three semesters at Berkeley. He then immediately joined the college faculty.

Shortly after the war, the accelerators for charged particles, cyclotrons, synchrotrons, and other exclusive machines were the source of most of the newly discovered radionucleotides, and Berkeley was one of the most prominent centers in this field. David’s first research studies examined radiochemistry. His publications with Isadore Perlmann and Glenn Seaborg were dedicated to the fission of various heavy metals by high-energy particles and to artificial radioactive isotopes. Together, they discovered a dozen new ones. In 1949, David published as sole author, The story of radioactive isotopes, a review describing the production and properties of neutron- deficient isotopes produced by high-energy bombardment in the 184-inch cyclotron. In 1951 a review article followed with Glenn Seaborg as a second author (Seaborg won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry that same year) concerning “radioactivity and nuclear theory,” an obvious sign that Glenn recognized David’s expertise.

The research on new materials produced at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the study of their properties could not be conceived without x-ray diffraction to characterize their crystal structures. David was soon given the assignment to start a crystallography laboratory. In this new unit, David and his graduate student, Allan Zalkin, published the first structural studies on a series of Rare Earth (RE) Tetraborides. In 1953, both authors published one of their most cited publications - 258 citations with an average of approximately 5 per year - on the structures of Yttrium trifluoride and related RE trifluorides. This remarkable piece of work illustrates the quality of their studies from Weissenberg and powder diffraction patterns recorded on films with visual estimation of the intensities.

Based on his experience working with heavy elements, David very soon realized the importance of obtaining precise atomic x-ray scattering factors close to certain absorption edges. In 1955, David published his first paper concerning the x-ray dispersion effects in crystal structure determination, which was immediately followed by his most cited paper (565 times) with Carol Dauben on the dispersion corrections for x-ray scattering of atoms from elements 20 to 96. These two papers dedicated to the topic of resonant (or anomalous) scattering marked a new orientation in David’s career, which he pursued till the end of his scientific research activities.

In the early 1970s the SPEAR ring at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) was constructed, yielding intense synchrotron radiation. SPEAR was the new source of x-rays that David had been waiting for. The energy tunability of the source allowed crystallographers to extend their field of research by exploiting physical properties that were not possible from conven- tional x-ray tubes. In collaboration with James Phillips and Keith Hodgson from the department of chemistry at Stanford, David and Lilo published in Science their famous paper on the LIII absorption edge of cesium in which they showed that the change in scattering power was “approximately equivalent to removing a rubidium atom from the structure” by appropriate tuning of the wavelength. The importance of dispersion, i.e. the dependence of the atomic scatter- ing on x-ray energy, was immediately recognized as a powerful tool in phasing macromolecular structures. David’s scientific curiosity and his deep knowledge of diffraction theory was at the origin of his observation of x-ray dichroism (a change in absorption that depends on the polarization state of the incident beam) near the LI and LIII edges of uranyl, platinate and aurate, and the K edge of vanadium, bromate, bromide and iodate, properties which are closely related to the polarization anisotropy of resonant scattering and are expressed in terms of second rank tensors. David’s continuing interest led him to discover some higher order effects in the anisotropy of diffraction in, for example, potassium chromate and germanate, where non-negligible third rank tensor effects could be measured. The last of David’s studies dedicated to the anisotropy of resonant scattering was published in 1998. It is probably the increased traffic congestion on the Bay Bridge between the Berkeley hills and the Stanford storage ring that brought to an end his fruitful contribution to this field.

David’s interests in research were by no means limited to the field of resonant diffraction. To mention just a few other topics, he published several studies showing how to improve the calculation of Madelung’s constant for the electrostatic energy of ionic crystals. He was also interested in the problem of least-squares and the fixing of the origin in polar space groups and, in his last publication in 1999, how to improve the calculation of a full matrix in least-squares refinements. His life long collaboration with Allan Zalkin was a success story. The number of interesting crystal structures published by the team included a few noble gas compounds like XeF4, XeF5+ and XeO3 following Neil Bartlett’s first syntheses. The structure and chemistry of the porphyrins were published with Melvin Calvin. While I was preparing this article, I discovered David's very interesting contribution to the field of mathematical puzzles. Indeed, in Martin Gardner’s book, My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles, the well known journalist for Scientific American mentions that David found a way to force a draw in the Hip game on an order-6 board based on symmetry arguments, a typical sign of David’s ability to put theoretical considerations into practice!

The quality of David’s work can be estimated from some bibliometric indices. His articles were cited close to 11,000 times, a record. He was cited about 200 times each year for the last 20 years!

David’s scientific reputation attracted a large number of young crystallographers, doctoral students, trainees and postdoctoral fellows. He was very generous in giving advice and was the motivating source for many innovative studies by several visitors to his laboratory. It is not an exaggeration to characterize David’s influence as the “David Templeton School”. To cite just a few examples, Ivar Olovsson’s collaboration with David and their studies on solid ammonia and various sodium chromate and sulfate polyhydrate were certainly the basis for Ivar’s life-long interest in hydrogen bonds. Recently, the publication by Marc Schiltz and Gérard Bricogne: Exploiting the anisotropy of anomalous scattering boosts the phasing power of SAD and MAD experiments was dedicated to David and Lilo’s pioneering studies.

In 1982, I had the pleasure of inviting David to give a series of lectures at the doctoral school of the physics department at Lausanne on the topic of anomalous x-ray scattering during the winter semester. One of the participants was Howard Flack, who was carefully listening to David’s lecture on absolute configuration mentioning Roger’s scale factor. The lecture was apparently well understood by Howard, who shortly afterward published what is now called the Flack parameter for the estimation of the enantiomorph-polarity character of some structures. David’s series of lectures describing his experiences with, and the possibilities offered by, synchrotron radiation was also the inspiration for our laboratory’s involvement in the creation of the Swiss Norwegian beam lines at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble.

In 1977 the University of Uppsala recognized David’s remarkable contributions to scientific research and education by presenting him with their Doctor Honoris Causa degree. In 1987 he received, together with Lilo, the ACA A L Patterson Award for their contribution to “Theory, Measurement and Use of Anomalous Scatter- ing”. In 1988, he was also selected to give the G.N. Lewis lecture of the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

David’s management skills, diplomacy and sense of fairness helped him greatly in serving as Dean of the College of Chemistry between 1970 and 1975, a particularly tumultuous period on the Berkeley campus. He was also president of the ACA in 1984.

One day before his death, David’s son Alan was able to confirm for his father that the University of California had received the final installment of his contributions to establish an endowed chair for the College of Chemistry at Berkeley that will be known as the Lieselotte and David Templeton Chair in Chemistry. The Hewlett Foundation equally matched his contribution, making it a substantial and fully funded chair. Its purpose is to support a faculty member in chemistry, with preference for a woman who has growing children and who is trying to balance the demands of an academic career with raising a family - a challenge that was very familiar to David and Lilo.


I would like to thank Alan Templeton, Allan Zalkin, Ivar Olovsson, Ken Raymond, Michael Barnes and Mindy Rex for their kind help in preparing this article.

- Gervais Chapuis

Editor's note: Contributions may be made in David's memory to the Lieselotte and David Templeton Endowed Chair, College of Chemistry, 420 Latimer Hall no. 1460, Berkeley, CA 94720-1460 


Remembering David Templeton


I first met David Templeton in June, 1955, when I arrived in Berkeley to start graduate school in chemistry, and he was my course advisor. From the first it was clear that he was a percep- tive, easy-going, and tolerant person, and he was willing to grant me leeway in course selection, though I'm sure that he watched carefully to keep me out of trouble. (I took courses in physics and math in both six-week summer sessions; opted to skip chemistry 114H (thermodynamics) and took a quantum mechanics course in physics instead; didn't teach freshman chem lab at all as a graduate student; and took my PhD oral exams in my first year, all rather atypical for a first-year student.)

When I was recruited for a postdoc on "the Hill" in March, 1958, David was one of the Nuclear Chemistry faculty who offered me the job. David, along with John Rasmussen, directed gradu- ate students who worked with me doing nuclear orientation. I remember that David taught me to use a crystal goniometer, and he made a critical and ingenius design recommendation for my first Mössbauer spectrometer. He was delighted when his student Jim Haag got beautiful data aligning a cerium isotope (Phys Rev 121, 591 (1961). He was always generous with his ideas and asked nothing in return.

In the spring of 1971 David had become Dean of the College of Chemistry, and he had to find a new chemistry chair to replace Bruce Mahan, who was stepping down, so he asked the faculty individually for recommendations. I took a walk on campus before my meeting with him to decide whom I would recom- mend. To my surprise I realized, as I mentally eliminated my colleagues one by one, that I would be the one to draw the short straw (I suppose one has to be this dumb to be suitable for such a job). He confirmed this in our meeting an hour later. And here comes the part that displays his integrity and his loyalty to the university. He made it very clear to me that in taking the job I was making a commitment to improve the department, includ- ing enforcing Berkeley's very high standards for promotion to tenure. He was forthright, in other words, about disclosing the least pleasant aspect of the job. I always admired him for this, because I knew I would always have his support, and in the end the department benefited tremendously.

His creativity came to the fore that fall in a big way. By 1971 student protests were declining, and students were returning to the hard sciences to prepare themselves for careers. In Chemistry 1A, enrollment jumped from ≈1200 to ≈1800 (approximate numbers but not too far off) -and it was totally impossible to accomodate all students in our usual schedule because Chem 1A is a lab course and we just didn't have the facilities. David came up with the idea of adding lab sections in the evenings! Given that these were three-hour labs, this was very far out of the mainstream of traditional academic scheduling practice and there were plenty of barriers against this, -but it worked! Because Chem 1A was prerequisite for many other courses, a lot of kids were able to move their education along and graduate on schedule because of his idea. I helped make it work, as a foot-soldier, but he was the general and I'm sure that he had to move a few mountains to get it approved on campus (that was all above my pay grade).

- Dave Shirley

Although I departed from Berkeley more than 55 years ago, I have a number of fond memories of David. Once when a chemistry professor of mine from Texas Tech visited me in Berkeley, David took off an afternoon to give him a tour of "the Hill". Knowing this professor, I am sure that was a treasured moment for him, and I am sure he talked about that at numerous classes back at Texas Tech. David always blended giving a small bit of crucial advice at a critical time with the freedom for me to learn on my own and even to pursue an idea or two that I had. I was always impressed with his brilliance, especially after one weekend when he went skiing. Upon his return, I excitedly told him that I had obtained data for a low-temperature crystal structure of sodium superoxide that he had predicted would exist. He, too, was excited and quickly grabbed a copy of one of his papers and read out his calculations of the data for the new crystal structure, which agreed perfectly with what I had found during his absence.

I find it remarkable that he would take the time, as busy as he was, to correspond with me at Christmas over a period of 56 years, and I was not even his first PhD research student!

- Giles Carter


Other letters to Alan Templeton:

We were greatly saddened to learn from your kind letter that your father passed away last month and send you and your family our deepest sympathy. It must be particularly hard to have lost both parents within such a short time but, at least, it is comfort- ing to know your father did not have to endure a lingering or debilitating illness.

We first met your mother and father at one of the early ACA meetings, most likely in the '50ʼs, and immediately found we had much in common. My recollection of him outside the conference room at those meetings is that, rather than occupying the center of one of the informal and often brisk discussions that tended to form, he would characteristically stand a little aside with your mother although, as we all knew, he was well informed and entirely willing to respond most knowledgeably and graciously on any crystallographic matter inside the conference room. All who knew him at these meetings held him in the highest regard, with great respect for his views which were invariably carefully considered and exhibited deep physical insight. However, although remarkably well informed, he never pressed his views but, instead, was invariably the perfect gentleman.

- Sidney C. Abrahams


I just returned from travels last night and got your message. I was saddened to hear of your father's passing. You have my sincerest condolences. As you can imagine he played a big part in my life and I consider him my academic father. I will certainly try to come up to Berkeley on September 25th for the memorial service, barring any unforeseen circumstances. One way or the other I will send or bring with me some of the memories of the great time I had in the Templeton lab.

I have also learned of your mother's passing last fall. Lilo was an important part of the lab, and I was very sorry to hear that sad news. I can imagine that it has been a difficult year for you, having lost two such wonderful people within the span of a year. The history that you assembled of your mother's life trajectory is fascinating - I previously had no idea of the details. When we used to have our afternoon tea in the lab, the discussions rarely went to family history, but rather were centered around current events and science.

I hope I get to talk with you at the memorial service for your dad, to find out how your life has progressed, and to reminisce about your parents.

- Art Olson


I was a graduate student of Dave Templeton's from the fall of 1964 to the summer of 1968, and while he was an effective instructor and a wise and sympathetic councilor, what sticks in my mind is his subtle sense of humor.

For example, as program chair for the Feb. '68 ACA meeting in Tucson, AZ, he sent out "instructions to authors" on the format for their abstracts that included as an example the equation: R = ∑ |Fo|-|Fc| / ∑ |Fo| = 1 + eiπ, with an Acta Cryst. reference. When I suckered in and looked it up, I found an otherwise blank numbered page. Only then did I realize that this was his way of objecting to the all-too-common careless omission of the second set of absolute value signs in the numerator.

Then there was the seminar in which he likened x-ray crystallography to alpine skiing. The title escapes me, but the sub-title was "How to Break Your Leg on the Bunny Slope". He told the tales of the fluoride ion that completely vanished from the structure of LaF3 (until a secondary extinction correction was included), the nice low R-factor obtained for some xenon oxide compound with one oxygen on the wrong side of a false mirror plane, and likened digital computers to the ski lift by saying that "While it gets you more runs during a day, it doesn't necessarily improve your technique."

He appeared to be quite delighted at the mystification and frustration his WWII draft board must have felt when repeatedly told that they couldn't draft him (?), but with no explanation or reason given. (He had been pulled out of graduate school and was part of the Manhattan Project in Chicago, analyzing metal samples for neutron-absorbing oxygen.)

But how many of his subtle jokes did I miss, and is he still grinning over those?

- Barry DeBoer