memoriam: James Cason and Charles Wilke
Cason, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of California,
Berkeley, died Nov. 3, 2003 in Berkeley after a short illness. He was
Cason was born Aug. 30, 1912, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He earned an
A.B. from Vanderbilt University in 1934 and went on to receive an M.S.
in organic chemistry from Berkeley in 1935 and a Ph.D. from Yale University
a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, he worked with the National
Defense Research Committee under the direction of Louis Fieser during
World War II. Cason taught at DePauw University from 1940 to 1941 and
at Vanderbilt University from 1941 to 1945 before joining the faculty
at Berkeley later in 1945
For almost four decades, Cason taught organic chemistry at Berkeley, and
he served as dean of the College of Chemistry from 1955 to 1956. He authored
four college textbooks on organic chemistry and published more than 100
articles in major scientific journals.
Cason retired from Berkeley in 1983. During the past 20 years, he and
his wife of 68 years, Rebecca, split their time between their home in
the Berkeley hills and their old-growth redwood property, which they named
“Camelot,” near Garberville, Calif. For a number of years, the Casons
operated a profitable 75-acre almond orchard in California’s Central Valley.
Rebecca Cason passed away on April 4, 2004. They are survived by their
sons, Roger of Nathrop, Colo., and Mardy of Boston, Mass.; four grandchildren;
and two great-grandchildren. Contributions to their memory may be made
to the James and Rebecca Cason Fund, which will be used for an award to
an outstanding undergraduate student in organic chemistry.
R. Wilke, one of the founders of the Department of Chemical Engineering
and a pioneer in the field of biochemical engineering, died on October
2, 2003 at his home in El Cerrito. He was 86 and had been battling cancer.
was born in Ohio in 1917. He put himself through school at the University
of Dayton by playing trombone in a dance orchestra that he organized,
graduating in 1940. He subsequently received his M.S. from Washington
State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. After
brief stints with the Union Oil Company of California and Washington State,
he joined the Berkeley faculty as an instructor of chemistry in 1946.
He rose through the ranks, becoming a full professor in 1953, with a shift
in appointment to chemical engineering in 1949. He chaired the Division
of Chemical Engineering from 1953 to 1956, and when the Department of
Chemical Engineering was established in 1957, he became its first chair.
He instilled an unusually strong spirit of cooperation among his colleagues
as he guided the growth of the department from five faculty members to
sixteen. He also played a key role in making Berkeley’s chemical engineering
department preeminent at a time when the discipline was evolving toward
the social and economic importance it enjoys today.
Charles Wilke established an international reputation in the 1950s as
a leading scholar in the field of diffusion and mass transfer. He then
shifted directions in his research in the early 1960s to help establish
the budding field of biochemical engineering. His early studies on the
kinetics of microbial growth and gas-liquid mass transfer are widely credited
with providing the engineering underpinnings for the subsequent revolution
in molecular biology.
The author of more than 150 scholarly papers, he taught hundreds of undergraduate
students and mentored more than 100 M.S. and Ph.D. students. He also served
for several years as assistant to the chancellor for academic affairs
and was active on many campus committees. In addition to his university
appointment, he was a faculty investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley National
His work was recognized with the highest awards of his profession, including
election to the National Academy of Engineering and the Colburn and Walker
Awards of the AIChE.
Friends will also remember that Charlie enjoyed a hobby of predicting
the activities of the stock market on the basis of a computer model that
Wilke’s wife of 57 years, Bernice, died last March. He is survived by
his sister-in-law, Mary Arnett, of Kensington, CA. Donations in his memory
may be made to the Charles R. Wilke Chair in Chemical Engineering.