Merle Randall

April 1, 2020

1917, chemistry faculty in front of Gilman Hall

Merle Randall is 4th from right in the front row. 1917 in front of Gilman Hall.

By G. K. Rollefson, G. E. K. Branch, and G. E. Gibson

Merle Randall was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri on January 29, 1888 and died as a result of a heart ailment in Berkeley, California on March 17, 1950. His early years were spent in his native state where he graduated from the University of Missouri with the B.A. degree in 1907 followed by the M.A. in 1909. In the fall of 1909 he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he began his long association with the late Professor G. N. Lewis. For the first two years he held the Austin Fellowship; in the third year the Saltonstall Fellowship. He received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1912. In the same year Professor Lewis came to California to head the Department of Chemistry at Berkeley and brought Randall with him as a research assistant. The title was changed to research associate in 1913, and in 1917 Randall became a member of the teaching staff with the rank of assistant professor. Promotion to associate professor came in 1922 and to a full professorship in 1927. In 1931-1932 he was on leave and spent considerable time in Europe, especially in Munich. He became professor emeritus in 1944 and spent the remaining years of his life in consulting work. In this connection he served as consultant and director of research for the Stuart Oxygen Company in Berkeley and as consultant and vice-president of Pioneers, Inc., in Oakland.

Text book on thermodynamics by G.N. Lewis and Merle Randall

Throughout his career Randall was active as a research man as is shown by the fact that he published more than one hundred papers in various scientific periodicals. For many years his major interest was in thermodynamics, where he was active in the determinations of the free energies of various compounds and in the study of the activity coefficients of various electrolytes. His most outstanding contribution was his collaboration with the late Professor Lewis in the preparation of the book, Thermodynamics and the Free Energies of Chemical Substances, which is considered to be a classic work on the subject. The great rise in interest in isotopes which followed the discovery of the isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen caused Randall to turn his attention to methods of separating such substances. He spent considerable time on the separation of the isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen by distillation processes and published many papers describing his work and the theory involved. His research interests were not confined to problems of academic concern. He was chairman of the Termite Investigation Committee which published an extensive report on Termites and Termite Control in 1934. He also developed a method of sulfide spraying to reduce the hazards of mercury poisoning in confined spaces. His last scientific paper was presented at the meeting of the American Chemical Society held in San Francisco in March 1949; it dealt with the reactions occurring in the lead storage cell and a method for the prevention of sulfating by the addition of various substances. His work received recognition in that he was starred in American Men of Science beginning with the fourth edition and in 1932 he received the Prague Medal from Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Professor Randall was an active member of many professional societies. He joined the American Chemical Society in 1907 and after coming to California became one of the most active members of the local section. He served as councilor for many years and was chairman of the section in 1934. When not serving in these capacities he was usually found to be active on the section's executive committee in one capacity or another. Other professional societies with which he was affiliated are: American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Testing Materials, Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, American Society of Metals, American Society of Refrigeration Engineers, American Society of Lubrication Engineers and the American Society of Welding Engineers.

Professor Randall was also active in nonprofessional circles. He was a member of the Berkeley High Twelve Club of which he was secretary and a past-president. His main interest was in Masonry. He served as master of the Henry Morse Stephens Lodge No. 540 F. and A. M., president and high priest of the Berkeley chapter of Royal Arch Masons, master of the Oakland Council No. 12 of R. and S. M., Commander of the Berkeley Commandery No. 45 of Knights Templar, registrar of the San Francisco Priory No. 38, K. Y. C. H., noble greeter of the Aahmes Temple of the Shrine, and master of the Berkeley Chapter No. 178, O. E. S. He also found time to be an active member of St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.

Professor Randall is survived by his wife Lillian D. Randall, two sons, Merle D. Randall of El Cerrito and Robert A. Randall of Antioch, and two granddaughters, Barbara Joan and Susan Jane Randall of El Cerrito. These and the many friends he made during his long residence in the Bay Area mourn the passing of one who contributed in so many ways to the community.