Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

David and Clara Shoemaker Papers, 1930-2000

Biographical Note: David Shoemaker

David Powell Shoemaker (1920-1995) was born in Kooskia, Idaho on 12 May 1920, received a from Reed College in 1942 and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1947, both in chemistry. In 1947 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship which he spent at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen. He returned to Caltech as a senior research fellow (1948-1951) before going to MIT as an assistant professor. He moved to Corvallis in 1970 as chairman of the Chemistry Department at Oregon State University and retired in 1984. During his time as chairman (1970-1981) he had primary responsibility for the construction of the Gilbert Hall Addition, a teaching facility.

Shoemaker's primary research was in x-ray crystallography. He and his wife, Clara, determined the structures of complex transition-metal phases, research begun with the determination of the structure of the sigma phase at Pauling’s laboratory at Caltech.

While at MIT Shoemaker also worked in the structure of commercially important zeolites. He co-authored a laboratory text (with Carl W. Garland, Jeffrey I. Sternfeld and later Joseph W. Nibler), Experiments in Physical Chemistry (1962), now in its sixth edition. Among his professional services were 15 years on the United States National Committee for Crystallography (1969), chairman of the American Crystallographic Association (1970), member of the executive committee of the International Union of Crystallography (1972-78) and regional editor of Acta Crystallographica.

David Shoemaker died in 1995.

Biographical Note: Clara Shoemaker

Clara Brink Shoemaker (1921-2009) was born in Rolde, the Netherlands. She received the Ph.D. in chemistry in 1950 at Leiden University. Her major professor was the inorganic chemist A.E. van Arkel. The subject of her thesis was the crystal structures of complexes of monovalent ions determined by x-ray analysis, under which she studied with Professor Caroline MacGillavry in Amsterdam. From 1946-1950 and 1951-1953 she was an instructor in Inorganic Chemistry at Leiden University. From 1950-51 she had a fellowship of the International Federation of University Women, which enabled her to work with Dorothy Hodgkin in Oxford on the structure Vitamin B12.

In 1953 she became a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she began working with David Shoemaker on the crystal structures of transition metal phases related to the sigma phase. They married in 1955 and continued their work on the crystal structures of these more and more complicated intermetallic compounds for almost 40 years. Originally these compounds, with only tetrahedral interstices between the atoms, were only known for causing brittleness in steels, but later they gained some interest as possible story materials for hydrogen and as model structures for quasicrystals, discovered in 1984. In 1970, Clara moved with her husband to Corvallis, Oregon, where she became a research associate, and in 1982 a senior research professor, retiring in 1984.

Timeline for David and Clara Shoemaker

1920 David Paul Shoemaker is born on May 12 in Kooskia, Idaho, the eldest of five sons. His father, Roy H. Shoemaker, is a civil engineer.
1921 Clara Brink is born in Rolde, Holland on June 20. Her father is a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, divorced from his first wife and remarried to the woman who becomes Clara's mother. As a result, Clara's family includes two older half-brothers and an older sister.
1926 David begins his early education in the Boise, Idaho public school system.
1938 David begins his undergraduate education at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
Supported by an interest-free government loan, Clara begins her higher education at the University of Leiden, majoring in chemistry and minoring in physics.
1941 Clara completes her undergraduate degree shortly before the Nazi occupation and subsequent closing of the University of Leiden. She then begins her graduate studies at the University of Utrecht - studying under Anton Eduard van Arkel - though she is often compelled to work from her parents' home as World War II spreads throughout Europe.
1942 David receives his B.A. in Chemistry from Reed College and moves to Pasadena to begin his graduate studies under the supervision of Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology. His research is divided between Pauling's expansive program of scientific war work and, later, a series of crystallographic investigations. While in Pasadena, David determines the structure of sixteen molecules, most notable among them threonine, an amino acid.
1946 With the conclusion of World War II, Clara completes her doctoral examinations. (Much of her course work has been conducted on her own, at her parents' home.) At A. E. van Arkel's suggestion, Clara assumes an assistantship at the University of Utrecht and begins learning the techniques of x-ray crystallography, studying for one day each week in Amsterdam under the renowned crystallographer Caroline MacGillavry.
1947 David receives his Ph. D in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He is subsequently named a Guggenheim fellow, and studies abroad at both Oxford University and at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, Denmark. Aged 27, he is among the youngest of his era to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.
1948 Upon the completion of his one-year Guggenheim trip, David is named a Senior Research Fellow at Caltech. He solves the difficult structure of DL-serine and begins the research program that will come to define much of his career - a broad series of investigations into the structures of complex transition-metal phases.
1950 Clara receives her Ph. D. from the University of Utrecht and is hired by A. E. van Arkel as an x-ray crystallographer at the University of Leiden. Her research focuses on the crystal structures of monovalent ions.
Later in the year, funded by an International Federation of University Women fellowship, Clara travels to Oxford to work for one year in Dorothy Hodgkin's laboratory. While there, Clara focuses on the crystal structure of vitamin B12. Her time at Oxford will result in three publications co-authored with Hodgkin, recipient of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
1951 David is hired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, under the title Assistant Professor in Chemistry. Along with his continuing interest in transition metals, David engages in a fruitful investigation of zeolite structures.
1953 Dissatisfied with the working environment at the University of Leiden, Clara takes a one-year leave of absence and travels to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for purposes of working with David Shoemaker on the structure of transition metals.
1954 David renews Clara's leave of absence contract for a second year.
1955 On August 5, David Shoemaker and Clara Brink are married. After her wedding, Clara moves to Barbara Low's laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Low is an associate from Clara's tenure in Dorothy Hodgkin's laboratory.
1956 David is promoted to Associate Professor in Chemistry at M.I.T.
On September 12, Clara gives birth to the couple's only child, a son named Robert. For two years, while caring for her infant son, Clara works from home on the International Tables of Crystallography.
1959 In October, Clara becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States.
1960 David is promoted to the rank of Professor in Chemistry at M.I.T.
He also joins the U. S. National Committee for Crystallography, on which he will actively serve for fifteen years.
1962 David becomes Secretary-Treasurer of the U. S. National Committee for Crystallography.
With Carl W. Garland and Jeffrey I. Steinfeld, David also publishes Experiments in Physical Chemistry, a widely-adopted laboratory text that runs through six editions.
1964 David is named Regional Co-editor of Acta Crystallographica.
1967 David is elected to a three-year term as President of the U. S. National Committee for Crystallography.
For six months, he also serves as Visiting Scientist at the University of Geneva's Laboratorie de Cristallographie.
1970 David is elected President of the American Crystallography Association.
That same year, David and Clara relocate to Oregon State University, where David has been hired as Chairman and Professor of Chemistry. In reaction to the university's nepotism guidelines, Clara arranges to work as Research Associate under Dr. Ken Hedberg - like David Shoemaker, a former graduate student of Linus Pauling. The arrangement lasts for several years until the university's rules are relaxed.
During his tenure as department chair, David overseas two major building projects - the construction of a new chemistry laboratory building and the renovation of the chemistry offices and research building.
During her years at Oregon State, Clara trains several graduate students in techniques of x-ray crystallography, publishing papers with many of her protégés.
1972 David joins the Executive Committee of the International Union of Crystallography.
1975 David serves as visiting committee member of the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
1978 David serves as an evaluation panel member for the National Bureau of Standards, and also enjoys a second Visiting Scientist fellowship at the Laboratorie de Cristallographie. (He has enjoyed a productive collaboration with Erwin F. Bertaut in Grenoble)
1979 David is named Chairman of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. In June, he likewise serves as Visiting Lecturer at the Kemisk Institut in Aarhus, Denmark.
1981 David steps down as Chairman of Chemistry at Oregon State University. He remains Professor in Chemistry.
1982 Clara is promoted to Senior Research Professor.
1984 David retires from Oregon State University under the title Emeritus Professor in Chemistry, and Clara retires as Research Professor Emeritus. He and Clara continue their work on transition metal phases and enter into the emerging scientific conversation over the nature of quasicrystals.
1995 On August 24, David dies of kidney failure in Corvallis, Oregon, aged 75. He is survived by Clara Shoemaker and their son, Robert. Over the course of their professional association, David and Clara publish thirty-six scientific papers together.
2009 On September 30, at age 88, Clara succumbs to cancer.

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