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John R. Huizenga (1921-2014) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: John R. Huizenga (1921-2014)

Historical Note:

The life of Dr. John R. Huizenga began with a humble childhood, growing up on the Mississippi River in Fulton, Illinois. His father was a farmer and he attended a one-room school. His love for chemistry began at Calvin College in which he graduated from in 1944. He then went off to the University of Illinois for graduate school. There he studied physical chemistry and soon was recruited into the military top-secret Manhattan Project to help build the atom bomb.

Once World War II ended, Huizenga went back to the University of Illinois to earn his Ph.D. He then took a job at Argonne National Laboratory working in nuclear chemistry. After the government detonated the world’s first hydrogen bomb in the Pacific in 1952, Huizenga was part of the crew to sift through the radioactive remains. Along with his team, they discovered two new elements, einsteinium and fermium. In 1966, Huizenga received two honors. First, he received the government’s Lawrence Award and accompanied the first American scientific delegation to be sent to the Soviet Union.

In 1967 Huizenga accepted a faculty position at the University of Rochester, where he would remain for the rest of his career. Another milestone in Dr. Huizenga’s career was that he was appointed as co-chairman of a Department of Energy panel that debunked “cold fusion” claims which were made by two University of Utah chemist. He even published a book in 1992 called, “Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century.” He had also co-author a textbook as well as a memoir. Huizenga was married to Dorothy “Dolly” Koeze. She preceded him in death in 1999. Together they had four children: Linda, Jann, Robert, and Joel. Huizenga passed away from heart failure in 2014, at the age of 92.

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