Harry George Drickamer

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Harry George Drickamer
Born Cleveland, Ohio
Died Urbana
Fields Chemical Engineering
Institutions University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Alma mater Indiana University
University of Michigan
Known for condensed matter physics
Notable awards Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1967)
Irving Langmuir Award (1974)
Peter Debye Award (1987)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1988)
National Medal of Science (1989)

Harry George Drickamer (November 19, 1918 – May 6, 2002), born Harold George Weidenthal, was a pioneer experimentalist in high-pressure studies of condensed matter.[1] His work generally concerned understanding the electronic properties of matter.

Drickamer was born in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, to Louise Weidenthal and Harold Weidenthal. His father died when Harry was very young, and after his mother remarried, Harry’s stepfather adopted him. After graduating early from public schools in East Cleveland, he played minor league professional baseball in the Cleveland Indians farm system, then entered Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship. He soon transferred to Indiana University and then to the University of Michigan, where he received a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1941 and master's degree one year later.

In 1942 Drickamer began work at the Pan American Refinery in Texas City, Texas. After his fellow students played a prank by forgetting his name on a sign-up sheet for the Ph.D. qualifying exam in chemical engineering, he decided to take the 16-hour exam. After he started work in Texas, he received word that he had passed. He then combined work with study of physics and quantum mechanics, and in February 1946 returned to the University of Michigan for one term to receive his Ph.D.

Drickamer joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he subsequently remained for his entire professional career. After his initial appointment as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in 1946, he was promoted to associate professor in 1949 and to full professor in 1953. In 1958 he was appointed professor of chemical engineering and physical chemistry, and in 1983 he became professor of chemical engineering, chemistry, and physics.

Honors and awards


Drickamer died of stroke on May 6, 2002, in Urbana. In honor of his outstanding achievements and hard work, one graduate student every year at Illinois from either Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry, or Physics will be awarded the Harry G. Drickamer Research Fellowship via the Drickamer Fund.

Harry is the father of esteemed biochemist Kurt Drickamer, currently a professor at Imperial College London, discoverer of C-type Lectins. His other son, Lee C. Drickamer is a well-known animal behaviorist and textbook author who received the 2010 Distinguished Animal Behaviorist Award from the Animal Behavior Society. Now retired as Regents' Professor Emeritus, he spent his academic career at Williams College, Southern Illinois University, and Northern Arizona University.


  1. Jonas, Jiri; Slichter, Charles (October 2002). "Obituary: Harry George Drickamer". Physics Today. 55 (10): 71. doi:10.1063/1.1522182.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science