Bookmark and Share

Robinson D. Burbank (1921-2006)

[Burbank]Robinson Derry Burbank, president of the American Crystallographic Assn in 1975 and Bell Labs scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, died February 9, 2006 at home in Summit, NJ following a brief illness.

Rob was born October 3, 1921 in Berlin, NH, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Colby College in 1942 and received his PhD in inorganic chemistry from MIT in 1950. He performed spectrochemical analysis on uranium and thorium at MIT during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. Upon completing his doctorate, he joined the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee as a senior physicist before coming to Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ in 1955. His contributions to greater accuracy in structural investigations included his early demonstration of the value of cooling the crystal under investigation to low temperatures, his recognition of the geometric conditions under which intrinsic multiple diffraction occurs and his comparisons of the use of ω and 2θ scans for integrated intensity measurements. Materials of unusual chemistry and physical properties, including noble gas and interhalogen compounds such as XeF2·IF5 and XeF6, the structures of which he detetermined, were also among his interests as were the mechanisms of phase transitions.

He was a charter member of the American Crystallographic Assn, a member of the the American Physical Society and the American Assn for the Advancement of Science. He served on the executive committee of the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics. He was a U.S. delegate to the IUCr in 1975.

A ski-jumper in his youth, Rob Burbank was an avid skier, hiker, and mountain climber. He was a longtime patron of the arts, especially the Metropolitan Opera. He is survived by a son, Paul R. Burbank of Ozone Park, NY, a daughter, Claudia Burbank of Bernardsville, NJ, and two granddaughters, Christine and Joy Burbank of Kew Gardens, NY. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Mount Washington Observatory, P.O. Box 2310, North Conway, NH 03860, or to the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York.

Claudia Burbank and Sidney Abrahams
2 September 2008