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Roman Schmitt Papers, 1961-1988

By Karl McCreary

Collection Overview

Title: Roman Schmitt Papers, 1961-1988

ID: MSS Schmitt

Primary Creator: Schmitt, R. A. (Roman A.) (1925-2016)

Extent: 0.7 cubic feet. More info below.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2014

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Roman Schmitt Papers are comprised of materials generated and collected by chemistry professor Roman Schmitt that document his research and instruction. Among the materials in this collection include: article reprints, committee records, a grant proposal, lecture notes, photographs, and research data. Schmitt worked for Oregon State University from 1966 until 1999 in a joint appointment with the Chemistry Department and the OSU Radiation Center. Specializing in the field of cosmochemistry, Schmitt used neutron activiation analysis in the research of moon rocks collected as a part of the NASA Apollo Sample Return Program.

Scope and Content Notes

The Roman Schmitt Papers are comprised of materials generated and collected by chemistry professor Roman Schmitt that document his research and instruction. Among the materials in this collection include: article reprints, committee records, a grant proposal, lecture notes, photographs, and research data.

Documentation of Schmitt's research is reflected in the article reprints, committee records, grant proposal, photographs, and research data.

The photographs depict moon rocks and information relating to the analyses of these lunar samples. The images of the moon rocks are mostly photographic prints generated by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) which document the particular rock specimens that were loaned to OSU from NASA's Apollo 11 and 14 missions. These photographs each depict a single rock sample, sometimes at a magnified view, with an accompanying identification number. The images that feature research information are entirely made up of photographic slides that document text and data plotted in graphs and charts.

The research data reflect analyses of rock samples conducted in 1976. The grant proposal was submitted by the OSU Chemistry Department to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for funding as a part of the Department Science Development Program. Focused on the support of facilities and faculty in physical chemistry research, the proposal contains a description of Schmitt's work in nuclear chemistry as well as a vita and list of his publications. The committee records are associated with the management of this NSF grant.

Schmitt's instruction of chemistry courses is reflected in lecture notes he prepared for the classes "Radioactive Tracer Methods" (CHM 419) and "Experimental Nuclear Chemistry" (CHM 515). In addition to the handwritten lecture notes, these course files contain class handouts and reference materials made up of articles, reports, and other published sources. Other reference materials that were not integrated into the lecture notes relate primarily to the use of gamma rays in neutron activation analysis.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Born in Johnsburg, Illinois, in 1925, Roman Schmitt attended the University of Chicago and completed his doctorate in 1953. Schmitt went on to work as an instructor of chemistry at the University of Illinois and pursued post-doc research in physics there. In 1956, Schmitt switched gears and left academia to work as a research staff scientist with General Atomic, a division of the General Dynamic Corporation. At General Atomic, Schmitt specialized in the study of the chemical composition of meteorites for the presence of rare earth elements. This research required the process of nuclear activation analysis, which entails the bombardment of an object with neutrons inside a nuclear reactor and subsequent measurement of the resulting radioactivity. The reactors used in this process had been developed and sold by General Atomic under the name TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomic).

In 1966, Schmitt came to Oregon State University to develop a nuclear activation analysis laboratory to be used in conjunction with the newly installed TRIGA Mark III Reactor. Schmitt managed all research activity involving the nuclear activation process. The primary focus of research using nuclear activation was the study of rocks and soil collected from the moon. OSU was one of 150 institutions worldwide selected to participate in the NASA Apollo Sample Return Program and Schmitt directed these efforts to analyze the chemical composition of lunar samples for the amounts of major and trace elements. In total, NASA sent over a 1000 lunar samples to OSU for study. By 1977, seven years into the ten-year research project, Schmitt and his colleagues had completed the analysis of 300 samples.

Schmitt's work with nuclear activation also involved collaboration with state and county law enforcement agencies in the analysis of forensic evidence. Among the objects studied were bullets collected as a part of homicide and suicide investigations.

As part of Schmitt's dual appointment with the Chemistry Department and the Radiation Center, he also taught coursework in chemistry. Among the honors received by Schmitt include the F. A Gilfillan Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science (OSU) and the George P. Merrill Award for Pioneering Work with Rare Earth Elements (National Academy of Sciences).

Schmitt became professor emeritus in 1999. He died in 2016.

Author: Karl McCreary

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 243 photographs; 2 boxes

Statement on Access: This collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: These materials were transferred to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center in 2014 by Lucas Hart.

Related Materials:

A transcript of a 2009 interview with Roman Schmitt is available in the collection How OSU Grew Nuclear Science Oral Histories (OH 016). Other collections in the Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives that contain documentation relating to Schmitt include: the College of Science Records (RG 024); the David and Clara Shoemaker Papers (MSS Shoemaker); the Bill Reasons Photograph Collection (P 151); and the News and Communications Services Photograph Collection (P 57).

Records relating to the grant submitted by OSU Radiation Center Director Chih H. Wang to participate in the Apollo Sample Return Program can be found in the Chih H. Wang Papers (MSS Wang).

Preferred Citation: Roman Schmitt Papers (MSS Schmitt), Oregon state University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Schmitt, R. A. (Roman A.) (1925-2016)

People, Places, and Topics

Chemistry--Study and teaching (Higher)--Oregon--Corvallis.
History of Science
Lunar petrology
Lunar surface samples
Nuclear physics--Research--Oregon.
Nuclear reactors--Oregon--Corvallis.
Oregon State University. Department of Chemistry
Oregon State University. Radiation Center
Schmitt, R. A. (Roman A.), 1925-2016
University History

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.
Slides (photographs).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.